There is much to fear, especially for minority and young voters, with a switch to all-mail voting — unless our broken absentee ballot system is fixed. In this edition of Staying Home, first broadcast on April 16, 2020, Greg Palast and Josh Fox discuss the challenges our democracy faces during the coronavirus pandemic and what each and every one of us needs to do to ensure our vote counts.
Greg Palast and Josh Fox GregPalast April 22, 2020
Josh Fox: My next guest is Greg Palast, who is a hero of mine. I read his book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, I think in 2003 or 2004. It was about how George Bush stole his first election in 2000. It talked about how 70,000 black voters in Florida were disenfranchised. It talked about all the ways in which we have voter suppression… And then he came out with a film called The Best Democracy Money Can Buy in 2016, which talks about how Republicans have been doing voter suppression for years and years, and how they were systematically stripping people’s names from the voter rolls…
You’re one of the most thorough and incisive journalists on the matter of elections. You brought the truth to light about the 2000 election, about what happened in 2016. Your new book is How Trump Stole 2020. And you’re also fucking hilarious. How do you do all these things
Palast: Well, you know, I give a lot of credit to my co-writer of Mr. Jack Daniels… It’s very funny that you say something about me being funny, because that’s why I worked for BBC Television. Because in Britain I was literally covering the vulture financier, Paul “The Vulture” Singer, who had taken money for cholera medicines from the Congo. I was in the Congo in a cholera clinic, and I was able to actually pull off some pretty good jokes in a cholera clinic in the Congo. Because I don’t make fun of the victims. I make fun of the victimizers. So see, I just switched on you. There was no punchline there, I actually gave you just the cold information…
Fox: I do have one coronavirus joke. You want to hear it?
Palast: Okay. One.
Fox: I was on the phone with a very good friend of mine, who also happens to be my substitute Jewish mother every once in a while. It was actually Debra Winger, who I love and who I worked with on Gasland… We worked on the anti-fracking campaign… She goes, “Josh, Josh, Josh, really, you got to make sure you stay home. You had Lyme disease in the past. That means you’re immunocompromised.” I did have Lyme disease and she was like, “These don’t go together. You really gotta make sure you don’t get this.” And I thought about it for a moment. I thought, this is so wonderful. She’s so protective of me. That’s fantastic. And I put it together in my mind and I said, “Debra, are you saying to me that it’s a bad combination to have Corona with lime?” It’s funny cause it’s true. You didn’t see that one coming.
Palast: What I found is it’s really hard to put on makeup under a mask.
Fox: I know, we all have to have some sense of levity or else we go completely…
Palast: Today, in fact, if you go to GregPalast.com or Nation of Change, you’ll see my article, “How the Virus Voted for Trump” on mail-in voting. We’ve all gone to mail-in voting, but it’s not as simple as lick and stick. So I try to expose that thing. We’ve all gone, let’s all mail in our votes. You know that 22% of all mail-in votes never get counted.
Fox: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Stop, stop! WHAT?!? How many mail-in votes don’t get counted?
Palast: Twenty-two percent.
Fox: Twenty-two percent?
Palast: Now multiply that times about 110 million votes with 80% mail-in and you end up with 25 million votes which will never get counted… And it’s not just anyone’s vote, it’s voters of color.
It’s like the virus. I remember when the virus started, people were saying the rich and poor, Republicans and Democrats, Black and white, we’re all victims. That’s all bullshit. We know now that you have an unbelievably high proportion of people of color who are more liable to get the virus and more liable to die from it. Same with your mail-in ballot, it’s more likely to die or get excluded, quarantined, if you are a voter of color. So I’m concerned with that.
Fox: Why is that?
Palast: Well, to get a mail-in ballot, they have to mail it to you so you can mail it back in. Think about that. What happens is they send out these postcards to people saying do you want a mail in ballot? Now, two things. We’re talking swing states, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, other places. You don’t get the postcard if you are on what’s called the inactive list. The inactive doesn’t mean you’ve just been a couch potato. It means that, according to the state, you haven’t voted in a couple of elections. Now, what’s weird about that? You’re never supposed to lose your vote under U.S. law if you decided not to vote. And you’ve got the other problem that black people — and young and poor people — are often excluded from voting. So they take away your vote in one election and say you haven’t voted, so then they don’t send you the card, so you can’t get a ballot to vote. 1,039,000 voters in Ohio were denied the right in 2016 to get their mail-in ballot because they were on the inactive list. Two to one, Democrats — tell me who actually won the election? So this why I’m doing this fricking book.
A lot of people know Greg Palast as the guy who did this book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, about how the election in 2000 was stolen by Jeb Bush for his brother against Al Gore. What I discovered was that black people were removed from the voter rolls because, well, they were voting while Black… Technically, they said they were felons. Not one — zero — were illegal voters… So I wrote a book after that election explaining how the election was stolen. 2004 the election was stolen again. Kerry versus Bush, by theft in Ohio. And by the way, John Kerry, said that he read my book and he agrees with me.
Fox: But he didn’t fight back!
Palast: Well, remember, he’s got his own disease. He’s a Democrat. It’s said you don’t make fun of people who are politically disabled.
Hillary Clinton, by the way, did not lose in Wisconsin. Supposedly she lost by 22,000 votes, but check this out: 182,000 University of Wisconsin students were excluded because of voter ID. Your concealed carry ID can be used to vote in Wisconsin, but not your student ID. Guns, you can vote. Books, forget it. So you lost 182,000 students. That’s how Hillary lost Wisconsin.
According to the official — meaning the New York Times — count, Donald Trump won Michigan in 2016 by 10,700 votes. Now, stay with me on the math. 75,355 votes were never counted because of broken counting machines and scanners in Detroit. They say, well, you don’t know whose votes those were. We can’t know. They were in Detroit, in Motown — that’s not Trump town. Hillary didn’t lose that race, so I did a film, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.
Fox: What about Pennsylvania?
Palast: Another cluster….
Fox: You can curse on this show.
Palast: There are older people listening so I have to be careful. Hillary Clinton didn’t lose. It was another Jim Crow election, the third out of five. Now we’re heading into another steal, so I figured I’d write the book about how Trump stole this election — now, as a warning. I’m saying, here’s how he stole the election, but we can actually steal it back. As of today, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the usual suspects, et cetera, will allow you to preorder the book, which comes out June 2.
Fox: I’m going to order it right now. In fact we posted the link about how to order it on right on the People for Bernie’s chat.
Palast: By the way, I have a chapter in it called “California Reamin’” about how they F***ed Bernie out of his win in 2016.
Fox: Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. Stop. Hold the presses. I was there in California. I was campaigning door to door for Bernie in California 2016. I spoke at a rally in LA. I spoke at a rally in San Diego. I was there with Shailene Woodley and Kendrick Sampson and Dick van Dyke, and we had a dance party backstage. It was one of the most amazing memories. Ozomatli’s on stage before Bernie goes on, and the entire campaign’s dancing. Even Symone Sanders was dancing at that thing backstage. We were just letting loose. We were convinced we had California. We knew we had California… Three in one, everybody was for Bernie when we were canvassing, and then boom, we went to the party in California and there it was, we’re down 30 points. It didn’t make any sense. Tell me what happened. I need to know.
Palast: Well, let me just tell you about the last one a few weeks ago. I have a very, very exacting calculation that Bernie Sanders was screwed out of 553,000 votes in this past primary. Now he won California, cause they couldn’t stop him, he has this overwhelming Latin X vote for Tio Bernie that they could not possibly overcome. But he got screwed out of enough votes… I haven’t done the calculation on delegates, but it was probably a hundred delegates, which would have kept him in business. Now, I don’t know how it would’ve ended up with the ganged-up feel that happened. I can’t tell you, but I do know what happened in California. I’m not going to go into all the details because, damn, I’ll let you buy the book, How Trump Stole 2020. But to understand how he stole 2020, you have to understand how we ended up with a… How should I say? With a challenged challenger to Trump?
Fox: You mean in 2016?
Palast: And now in 2020. Because, again, Sanders got screwed in California. But even though he won, he could have had a hundred more delegates.
Fox: So wait a minute, before you go on, you’re talking about 2020 California or 2016 California?
Palast: 2020 Sanders was screwed out of 553,000 votes. I work these numbers with the number one voting statistician who gets all the direct numbers from the Secretary of State, who by the way is the Katherine Harris of California, Alex Padilla. We have the partisan hacks running the vote.
Fox: But what about 2016?
Palast: 2016 Sanders absolutely won. I don’t have the numbers right off hand cause I’d have to read my book again.
Fox: I’m sold, I’m sold. I’m buying the book.
Palast: But the other thing is… you and I, tomorrow… we will be doing a live program. We’ll be talking with Tom Hartman and with Barbara Arnwine, the great voting rights lawyer, with Lee Camp, and some other very good people. Nomi Prins and yourself… We’ll be talking about How Trump Stole 2020, and you also have this wonderful book…The Truth Has Changed… Handsome guy on the cover. Huh?
Fox: That’s my book. And actually, you know, this is a book also about voter suppression.
Palast: Our books go together. They really do.
Fox: They really do. They’re companion pieces.
Palast: Exactly… I loved the play, but I have to say I really even more enjoyed the book… When you read this, it has an unbelievable impact… I think my blurb is on the cover.
Fox: It is.
Palast: It is no BS, because I can’t use this line many times. It’s just about the best thing I’ve read in a decade. And I mean that. So you gotta get that book. I know that we seem to be stroking each other here. And it’s not because we’ve been chewing dandelions… I’m getting very concerned. It’s not whether I want Donald Trump to be president. I want the guy — well, now, it’s going to be a guy, right? — I want the guy who gets the most votes to win as opposed to what we’ve had so far. I’m not even talking about the popular vote. I’m talking about the fact that we still have these Jim Crow elections.
I know we just had this kind of miracle, a deadly miracle in Wisconsin, where the Wisconsin Supreme court, which was on the ballot, said we’re going ahead with the election for us. Despite the fact that we know that in Milwaukee, where it’s dense and people will be lining up and poll workers will be handing ballots back and forth, we have no problem with people dying to be forced to vote. They thought that would kill off — in both senses of the word — the African American vote in Milwaukee. They wanted it to go ahead quickly, the selection, because the students were sent away from the University of Wisconsin. They thought this is a lock for the Republican who’s running for the Wisconsin Supreme Court — and he still lost. The reason he lost is that people said, to hell with this… And I have to say, a lot of Republicans didn’t like the fact that this guy in the Wisconsin Supreme Court was pushing for an election that would kill people…
Fox: It was brutalizing to watch. It was brutalizing to watch. When I saw the videos of people in Milwaukee in the rain, six feet apart, standing there for hours to be able to vote because there were only five polling stations open in the entire city, it broke my heart… Watching that made me feel that American democracy had collapsed completely. And that’s somehow what I feel when I read your book. Rania Khalek and I talked a lot earlier in the program about how Israel can’t call itself a democracy because most of the Palestinians can’t vote. But we’re also at a place where Princeton University has said that the United States is not a democracy, because it doesn’t seem to matter what people think, the oligarchs do what they want.
But you’re saying, right now, that Al Gore won the 2000 election, that John Kerry won the 2004 election, and that Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election. According to the reporting that you have done that has been heralded around the world as the most sophisticated and important reporting of this kind on democracy. So you’re saying, in fact, the Iraq War should’ve never happened. That we should have had a climate change president in Al Gore. It’s beyond astounding to even think about the change in our lifetime… In your estimation, what needs to be done? I know you’re a journalist and you don’t endorse candidates.
Palast: I don’t.
Fox: I know that you’re saying that you want the candidate with the most votes to win. And it sounds as if you’re saying that America has certainly trended towards Democrats over the last 20, 30 years, whatever it’s been. And so what is it that you’re actually saying needs to happen if we want to try to have Donald Trump not elected this next time around?
Palast: At the end of the book, I don’t want to give you a bunch of BS stuff like let’s recommit to democracy. I want to give practical things. For God’s sake, check your registration. I don’t care if you’ve been going to the same polling station for 22 years since the Nixon administration. They removed 17 million. This is not a Greg Palast number, 17 million people, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, have been purged from the voter rolls in the past two years. That could be YOU. So you’ve go to your state Secretary of State’s office, everyone can look that up online to see whether they are registered and that their name and address is correct. And if not, reregister online right there. Don’t blow your own vote… That also means don’t blow your own vote by deciding, meh, the candidates are not good enough for me, I’m not going to vote. Democracy is all about ugly, disgusting, filthy choices, and you have no way out of it.
Being in Europe… actually the rest of the world is now pretty skeptical about what the Americans like to call our wonderful Democracy…. Something else I’d like you to do, anyone who’s listening here that has a Green Card, dammit, there’s 9.3 million of you — all apply for citizenship. Go get it! That would change things quite a bit too, all over this country.
I’m talking to my wife, who’s a Swiss citizen and is resisting becoming an American. In Switzerland, they don’t have registration. They don’t assume that everyone is an illegal alien from another planet coming into vote. And, by the way, they have a much bigger immigrant population proportionally than the U.S., they don’t assume people are cheaters and liars.
Fox: But Greg, if the Democrats have lost over and over and over again because of these tactics, why, when they were in power, did they not change these things? Did they just not listen to you? Are they listening to you now?
Palast: It’s very interesting, it’s a split. What’s happened is there’s been a big change, because of actually one person, Stacey Abrams. When she ran in 2018, I was investigating for Rolling Stone and Salon and she was running against the guy who’s in charge of the voting, the Secretary of State, Brian Kemp… This guy removed over half a million people from the voter rolls, mostly voters of color, young people, Democrats. He said they left the state. If you leave Georgia, OK, you shouldn’t vote in Georgia. But I hired the guys who are the experts for Amazon and eBay, and they know exactly where you are and whether you bought Chinese food or downloaded Chinese porn last month. They said, 340,134 people never left the state, they just got shafted out of their vote. So Stacey Abrams was the first Democrat in my lifetime who said, I won that election, but I will not be inaugurated because they used Jim Crow tactics on my voters, and she cited my investigations, which are in the book. And by the way, Stacey Abrams has hired my team now to take this on. We’ve been doing this all over the country.
Fox: So are you gunning for Stacey Abrams to be the Vice Presidential candidate? Because this might be a chance for that the happen?
Palast: I make no recommendations for Democrats or Republicans. I’m gunning for the presidential candidate to say, no, you’re not gonna screw all the black voters, the young voters, the Hispanic voters… And the new group that they’re going after is the Asian American voters. Huge attack on them…
Fox: Greg, you’ve been doing the most unbelievable work on this for so long. How do you deal with the frustration? I’m beginning to get there with you with my work on the fossil fuel industry. How do you deal with the frustration of seeing this happen again and again and again and again? And then tell us what we really need to do, besides just checking our registration… You’ve said before we have to vote in overwhelming numbers, we have to win by about six percent.
Palast: Overwhelm the steal. They, stole about 7.9 million votes from Hillary Clinton, especially in those swing states. Don’t steal your own vote by not voting. And if you’re gonna vote by mail, for God’s sake, find out how many stamps you need. And in six states you need witnesses and in three states you need a notary public. In those states, find a notary you don’t like, cause you may kill them in order to be able to vote.
You have to protect your own vote and encourage other people to vote safely… Look, we’re not gonna get miracles here. All we’re asking for is that the voters choose the politicians and not the opposite way around.
So pick up the book, obviously, that will help too. Think of How Trump Stole 2020 as kind of a ballot condom, protecting you and your family and your vote.
And Josh, thank you so much. You know, we joke about our most horrific thing, that is the way I personally just survive it, because I really don’t always keep it going. I’ve had some very, very dark nights with this. Very frustrating. And that’s why I’m very thrilled that you’re going through some of the same frustrations trying to get out the damn truth with The Truth Has Changed.
Fox: Greg, you’re an incredible American, an amazing human being, and we owe you so much for your reporting. Because what it does for me is it tells me that America is not the place that elected these people. That’s extraordinarily important to understand and know when you go out into America. Especially, I guess, for Jews and other folks who are not necessarily your run of the mill white homogenous, monoculture people. In my personal life, going out into America is often terrifying because the minute they know you’re a Jew, then something is different. It’s called racism. So it’s really important to recognize that when you go and leave what I call the Island off the Coast of America in New York City, or this Oasis of the Delaware River Basin where we have fought for our rights and fought the oil industry, that it’s not the Trump supporting, gun toting, Confederate flag waving, Nazi-majority empire that it seems. That we, the American people, are not that majority-wise. We are in fact a place which understands a different sense of values and that we are being screwed. Our democracy has been taken away from us. That gives me enormous faith in the American people. What I’m hoping is that we can figure out this time around how to have a fair election.
Palast: As I say in my book, America, don’t blame yourself. You did not elect a porcine, bloviating bigot grifter with little griftlettes. You didn’t do this. It was done by these vote-manipulating monkeys like Brian Kemp, Alex Padilla, unfortunately a Democrat of California, Katherine Harris, and all the rest of the vote gangsters and the ballot bandits. And by the way, when you see these clowns, you know that they’re not in charge, they’re just the glove puppets — it’s the billionaires who have their fingers in the glove… America, it’s not your fault. Read the book, How Trump Stole 2020
“Greg Palast is my hero. He’s a real American hero trying to save our democracy. Read his work. It might just save us.” — Josh Fox, author and director of The Truth Has Changed and director of Gasland