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This is the latest in an ongoing series of one-on-ones with the political pundits who have been at the forefront of the cable-news conversations this election season.
If you’ve ever tuned into weekend mornings on MSNBC, you know the ever-appropriately named Joy Ann Reid, host of AM Joy. But if Saturday and Sunday mornings aren’t your jam, that’s ok, because MSNBC is getting its money’s worth out of Reid, with appearances on nearly every show they have at one point or another.
In her profile, I described Nicolle Wallace as “delightfully Republican,” Reid, in a lot of ways, may just be her liberal counterpart with her trademark smile and infectious laugh.
Getting her start in local news in Miami, and with a Harvard education, Reid is one of the brightest bulbs in the bunch, providing analysis on the biggest stories of the day, alongside some of the heavy-hitters in news, day in and day out.
Reid is an author; her first book is called Fracture: Barack Obama, The Clintons, and the Racial Divide. She’s also a self-proclaimed policy wonk; she’s got the important, useful ability to break down complex issues in a way that makes them digestible and accessible, priding herself on her show’s unique ability to talk to politicos who love the daily grind of K-street and also to people who’d rather not get into the weeds.
I talked to Reid on a rare day off, while she was home with her dog.
To listen to the full audio, and some of the funny moments and candid stories that didn’t make the interview with Joy, click here. Below is the edited version of the discussion. Enjoy.
Current residence: Brooklyn, NY
Education: Harvard University, Digital Environmental Study
Political persuasion: Democrat, a Liberal
Political experience: I was raised a lifelong Democrat, always really interested in news and politics. Growing up my mother was very politically active as a Democrat, my father was actually a Republican but he wasn’t an American citizen so he couldn’t vote. My mother was an immigrant but she became a citizen. After college I worked in media and journalism, worked at an NBC and a Fox affiliate in Miami. I actually got out of news in 2003 because I was personally opposed to the Iraq war and wanted to do something other than the way the media was covering and rooting for it, in a lot of ways. So I went to work for America Coming Together, which was a 527 organization that tried to help unseat George W. Bush — we failed to do that — but it was great campaign experience that I was able to put to work as a talk radio host, where I covered a lot of politics on the radio after that campaign, and in 2008 working on the end of the Barack Obama campaign. I sort of veered between news, being a columnist and commentator and politics.
Which shows do you appear on primarily?
I do Hardball [with Chris Matthews] regularly, All In with Chris Hayes, The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. I’ve done Meet The Press a great deal, and recently have been doing Rachel Maddow’s show a lot, which has been fun. And I’ve filled in as a host for most of the shows. And on the weekends, of course, I host my show, AM Joy which is Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon ET.
How do you prep for appearances as a guest, as opposed to as an anchor?
I think the only difference either way is that it’s a lot of reading and research — but it’s not really work for me, it’s what I do anyway. I spend a lot of time poring over The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast and Newsweek. When you’re a guest, you’re told what topic you’re going to be talking about, I make sure that I’m conversant on whatever issues we’re talking about, that I’ve watched whatever speech, read up on whatever issue, and I really do the same thing as a host — the only difference is I also have to read and edit scripts.
Are there any shows you can’t or won’t go on?
We can’t go on the competition obviously, but I have a book out, so it’s a little bit of an issue that I can only go on NBC properties, obviously. In general, I’ve done everything from NewsMax TV to CNBC, which both are conservative all the way to the most liberal shows. I used to the Kudlow show as a commentator, I don’t really shy away from any ideological venue, as long as it’s a place where we can have a real conversation.
What is a common misconception about being a pundit?
Hmm, that’s a good question. I guess people assume that everyone that does punditry for a living is just sort of a thoughtless partisan, and there are some people who are thoughtless partisans, quite frankly. They’re just there to read whatever talking points get handed to them, or are so ideological there’s no way you could ever persuade them that their idea or reality is wrong. There are some of us who are open to ideas, who are friendly with the other side. I think one misconception is that pundits on the left and right despise each other, and I don’t think that’s true at all. Most of us have friendships across the ideological aisle, we have people that we’re able to debate with in a friendly way, and normally when we walk away from the table, whether it’s my show or I’m a guest on another show, we don’t walk away angry. Most of us are passionate about our beliefs, but we don’t dislike people on the other side.
What are the most valuable appearances for you / which are the spots you really want to do?
I really miss talking about policy, I think the most valuable discussions are when we can explain the background to a policy argument. Or explain the why of something that is meaningful in a policy-sense to the American people. I think we spend a lot of time, and maybe too much time, on optics and tactics and I think that distracts people from the underlying, really important issues at stake. For instance, in elections I wish we could spend more time talking about what’s really at stake in elections, rather than just optics, tactics, and the horse race.
It definitely seems that this election is a lot more of that than usual, right?
It’s not that it’s more, we always have an optics/tactics primacy, that’s just unfortunately the way the 24-hour news cycle works. The thing that’s most immediate is the “who’s on top, who’s ahead? Who’s behind? What does person X have to do to get ahead or to stay ahead,” rather than “what would it mean if this person were president?”
I think that question gets lost every time. We get caught of the personality or the tactical schemes of each campaign rather than “what would happen if this person were president?”
What was your most memorable appearance so far? Any notable/memorable moments that got especially heated, went viral?
When I was a fan of MSNBC, I always wanted to be on Hardball, so being on Hardball the first time is still very memorable to me. The first time I went on with Chris I said something, I think the questions was about John F. Kennedy versus Bill Clinton and he said to me, “You know, you’re so right!” I was so stunned because I was afraid that he would come for me, because Chris is tough! If you’re not on your game, your answers aren’t smart, and you’re not ready for him, he can be really, really tough. So I was bracing myself for it.
It’s funny because I was in Miami for the interview and I got to the venue late because the driver couldn’t find it, so by the time I got there my makeup was terrible, we really didn’t have time to do makeup and hair, so I was looking a hot mess, and was nervous … but it’s still one of my more memorable interviews because it was on my bucket list to be on this show, with this person that I watched every night on Chris Matthews, I still really remember that. And Chris is a great person, he’s a friend, and he’s been really helpful to me. His support has meant a lot.
What are you expecting Nov. 9, and going forward from there?
My Republican friends are all pretty unanimous that there’s going to be a huge reckoning for the Republicans. Because essentially, where my book starts is in 1964, at that time it was Democrats that had custody of this small, but very vocal racial-revanchist faction in American life that didn’t like the idea of demographic and cultural change, that really resisted it.
They lived in the Democratic party and were part of the party for more than 40 years, from The New Deal all the way through The Civil Rights Era and it was this weird coalition of Southern white segregationists and African-Americans and northern ethnic whites. That coalition was broken by The Civil Rights Era, when the Civil Rights Act passed, that faction passed from the Democratic Party into the GOP. And the Republicans have not quite figured out what to do with them. They’ve sort of made peace with them, by offering all of these other cultural tropes: support for the religious right’s ideas about imposing religion on American life, like school prayer, rolling back abortion rights, etc. Donald Trump has broken that coalition, and exposed the fact that much of the base of the Republican Party isn’t really that interested in tax cuts for the rich, and changing the capital gains tax. That’s all been sort of patched together, but not real.
So, I think after Nov. 9, Republicans are going to have to decide what kind of party they want to be. Do they want to be a Trumpist party or do they want to be a Romneyite/Bush type of party? Because the two are not holding together anymore. So I think they’ll have a reckoning. They also have to decide whether or not they want to be a white party, because right now that’s what they are. It’s not going to be easy to survive as a party without real depth in terms of ethnic diversity.
For Democrats, I think it’s going to be a question of can they win back some of that white working class that they’ve lost over the last 40 years.
After the election, where would you like to see yourself next?
Well, one off my big goals is to use my documentary film degree! I keep getting distracted by political coverage, writing columns and things but the next big project I’m putting my nose to the grindstone on is completing our first documentary, my husband and I have a production company. We’re working on a documentary about race and boxing. Prize fighting has always been this interesting kind of ethnic bubble where black and white men could get in a ring together, and both walk out alive, and not have something like lynching take place. That project and some others, I really want to get into that documentary space, I think it’s a great time to be making documentary films. And that is one of the things I want to focus on outside of the news realm.
And also of course, continuing to host AM Joy. I love this show, we have a great time.
Prediction for Election Night?
I think Hillary Clinton will win, I think we’re looking at Clinton winning most of the states that Barack Obama won in 2012 with a possible exception of Ohio, and maybe the exception of Florida. I think she may actually win some states that are unexpected like North Carolina, I think Nevada will probably go to her, so I think you’re going to see a slight re-alignment of the map, but the fundamentals are still the fundamentals.
I think Hillary Clinton wins, but I think politics is not going to be drained of its ugliness by that outcome. I think having a woman become president is going to be as convulsive as having a black man become president. For different reasons, but it’s the same thing: it’s fundamental, demographic change, and not everyone likes that.
I think she’ll get north of 300 electoral votes; I think Barack Obama got about 324 last time. I could see her getting in the 320 range, in terms of the Electoral College. And I think Democrats don’t take back the House. I think the Senate is a toss-up; they need seven Senate seats to take over. I think seven is going to be a little tougher, it’s 50/50 whether or not Democrats get the Senate back.