For eight years, Bobby Jindal (R) used his role as governor of Louisiana to move his state as far to the right as he possibly could, on as many issues as possible. It may be a "red" state in the Deep South, but Louisianans were deeply unimpressed with the results -- Jindal stepped down last year as one of the nation's least popular governors.
His successor, Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), took office a few months ago, vowing not to be "a business-as-usual governor." He wasn't kidding. The Louisiana Democrat has already embraced Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act, and yesterday, Edwards signed an executive order prohibiting state discrimination against LGBT residents.
The order by Edwards, a Democrat, overturns an executive advanced by his predecessor, Republican Bobby Jindal, protecting employers and agencies that wouldn't serve members of the LGBT community.
Edwards called that rule "bad for business, tourism and the Louisiana economy" and said it did "nothing but divide our state ... to serve a narrow political agenda."
Edwards signed the order following months of pressure from local business groups and giant corporations like IBM, which objected that Jindal's order last year would "create a hostile environment for our current and prospective employees."
"We respect our fellow citizens for their beliefs, but we do not discriminate based on our disagreements," said Edwards. "I believe in giving every Louisianan the opportunity to be successful and to thrive in our state. Our goal is to promote the opportunities we have right here in Louisiana. While this executive order respects the religious beliefs of our people, it also signals to the rest of the country that discrimination is not a Louisiana value, but rather, that Louisiana is a state that is respectful and inclusive of everyone around us."
The gubernatorial order refers only to public-sector workers. To expand anti-discrimination protections to the private sector, Edwards would need Louisiana's Republican-led legislature to act, which appears highly unlikely.
Nevertheless, yesterday's announcement was a major step forward for the state, which is all the more striking given the broader trends in the region.
Rachel Maddow reports on a $1000 per plate dinner scheduled in New York City to host all three Republican presidential candidates, and the massive minimum wage protest down the street that is expected to show up as well, just one of 300 demonstrations planned across the United States. watch
Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon talks with Rachel Maddow about the issues that led him to become the first senator to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination, and why he thinks there is such an imbalance in Senate endorsements with Hillary Clinton. watch
Senator Chris Murphy talks with Rachel Maddow about how issues like gun violence and foreign policy led him to endorse Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president, and the value of the Sanders candidacy to the Democratic Party. watch
* Incidents like these are cause for alarm: "Two Russian attack planes flew dangerously close to a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Baltic Sea on Monday and Tuesday, defense officials said."
* Chicago: "A panel tasked by Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a report on Wednesday that finds the city's police department has been beset by racism and recommended sweeping changes to help win back trust in the community. The Chicago Police Accountability Task Force called on the department to 'acknowledge its racist history and overhaul its handling of excessive force allegations.'"
* He doesn't remember? "Lawyers for former House speaker Dennis Hastert say their client does not recall an alleged sexual encounter he had with a 17-year-old wrestler before he launched his political career decades ago, according to a court filing unsealed Wednesday."
* Strike: "Nearly 40,000 workers at Verizon have gone on strike, objecting to, among other things, outsourcing and temporary location transfers."
* Finance industry: "Five giant banks -- including JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America -- failed to fulfill a crucial regulatory requirement that Congress introduced after the 2008 financial crisis to help make large financial institutions less a threat to the wider economy, federal banking regulators said on Wednesday."
* Student-loan forgiveness: "Hundreds of thousands of borrowers who are permanently disabled could have an estimated $7.7 billion in student loans forgiven, the Department of Education announced Tuesday."
The nature of direct-mail fundraising is, by design, inherently hyperbolic. A group, candidate, or committee wants you to write a check, and in order to get you to open the envelope and pony up, they send you a letter that relies on a combination of fear, pressure, and threat of a looming disaster that can only be prevented through your generous donation.
But there are supposed to be some limits. Even the most heavy-handed, in-your-face fundraising appeals, sent by any self-respecting entity, need to avoid brazen deceptions or anything that might appear fraudulent.
And with that in mind, Rachel noted on the show a couple of weeks ago that the Republican National Committee -- the official entity, chaired by Reince Priebus, not some knock-off operation -- had begun sending our fundraising mailers with "NOTICE OF DELINQUENCY" on the envelope.
The point, of course, is to scare the bejesus out of people who receive the mailing, making them believe they're receiving an unpaid bill. Slatereports today that more than a few alarmed recipients have been confused by the deception.
There has been a rash of recent reports of people being confused—and, frankly, scared—when opening a version of that letter, including in California, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. In case the all-caps “NOTICE OF DELINQUENCY”—stamped on the envelope and the letter itself—doesn’t grab the recipient’s attention, there’s also an attached donation slip disguised somewhat convincingly as a bill, complete with a "PAST DUE" notice, circled in red, as well as text that reads, "*** IMMEDIATE RESPONSE REQUESTED***".
The letter's signee? Republican National Chairman Reince Preibus.
There's generally an expectation that the RNC is going to push the envelope -- no pun intended -- when it comes to hyper-aggressive communications, but this seems more than a little sketchy, even by Republican National Committee standards.
Saving the planet, treating Ebola and a garbage sucking robot are just a few of the big ideas from the more than 130 incredibly bright students headed to the White House for the Sixth Annual White House Science Fair on Wednesday.
President Obama began the science fair back in 2010 with the idea that intellectual creativity should be recognized and honored with a White House visit in much the same way as star athletes who receive similar nods.
There's plenty of information about the participants, and former exhibitors, on the event's official site.
Following up our previous coverage, I know how easy it is to be cynical and pessimistic about the future, and to assume that the nation's best days are behind us, but the young people who attend the White House Science Fair are so genuinely extraordinary that it's hard not to feel optimistic about the next generation.
As for President Obama, I remember in his first year when he announced the creation of this event. He explained at the time, "If you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House. Well, if you're a young person and you've produced the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too. Scientists and engineers ought to stand side by side with athletes and entertainers as role models, and here at the White House we're going to lead by example. We're going to show young people how cool science can be."
Donald Trump is coming to a striking realization: it's possible, if not likely, that he's going to reach the Republican National Convention this summer with the most pledged delegates, the most votes, and the most state victories -- and the party will nominate someone else anyway.
It's not because the system is rigged against him. The problem is the Trump campaign has failed miserably to do the necessary follow-through at Republican conventions, where Ted Cruz's superior field operation has repeatedly filled delegate slates with its allies. On the first ballot, many of these delegates will be required to vote for Trump, but if the New York developer fails to reach a majority, many of those same delegates will quickly shift their allegiance. After the first ballot, Trump would likely to discover a Republican convention where he has few real friends.
And as this fact sinks in, Trump is beginning to lash out angrily at the process he's never fully understood or taken the time to study. At a New York rally the other day, Trump condemned the "corrupt" system and "crooked shenanigans."
Yesterday, he went further, insisting that the RNC created a system that's been deliberately "stacked against" him. "The Republican National Committee, they should be ashamed of themselves for allowing this kind of crap to happen," Trump said. In an interview with The Hill, the candidate added that the process is a "scam" and a "disgrace."
Ordinarily, RNC officials have bit their tongues and allowed Trump to launch into tirades like these without interference, but conditions have changed.
[Last night] RNC chairman Reince Priebus battled back against Trump's criticism.
"Nomination process known for a year + beyond. It's the responsibility of the campaigns to understand it. Complaints now? Give us all a break," he tweeted.
This represents a clear shift in tone and posture for the Republican National Committee, which has remained neutral. This is easily the most forceful criticism, albeit oblique and without anyone being named specifically, Priebus has made at any point in the cycle.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) removed all doubts yesterday about his 2016 plans. "Let me be clear: I do not want, nor will I accept the Republican nomination," he said.
* Bernie Sanders picked up his very first endorsement from a sitting U.S. senator today, when Oregon's Jeff Merkley (D) announced his support for his Vermont colleague.
* In New York, PPP shows Donald Trump leading the Republican presidential primary with 51% support, followed by John Kasich at 25%, and Ted Cruz at 20%. The latest Quinnipiac poll showed similar results.
* Among New York Democrats, PPP now shows Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders, 51% to 40%, while the Quinnipiac shows her ahead, 53% to 40%.
* When it comes to New York advertising, Sanders is putting his massive fundraising advantage to good use, outspending Clinton in ad buys by a two-to-one margin.
* In Maryland, an NBC4/Marist poll shows Trump ahead in the Republican primary with 41%, followed by Cruz at 29% and Kasich at 24%. The state's primary is April 26.
* Among Maryland Democrats, the same poll found Clinton leading Sanders, 58% to 36%.
Even if current patterns hold and Bernie Sanders comes up short in the race for the Democratic nomination, the Vermonter will still end this process in a strong position. He'll not only have wildly exceeded expectations, the independent senator will also have racked up an impressive number of delegates, votes, and state victories, all while leading a progressive "revolution" that can continue beyond 2016.
The next question is what Sanders and his team intend to do with that influence. In the short term, the Washington Post's Greg Sargent raises an interesting possibility.
...Sanders could demand concessions in the form of reforms to the Democratic nominating process. That's something voting reformers (and a lot of Sanders supporters) would be very grateful to see happen -- and it would make sense, given that one of the big stories of the Sanders challenge is that it has exposed a number of flaws with that process. [...]
[I]f Sanders can keep Clinton short of a majority of delegates going into the convention, he could still try to use whatever leverage he has -- after all, he'll have the support of voters across the country that Clinton wants in her corner -- to prod the Democratic Party to make changes to the way it selects its nominees.
Agreed, that would make a lot of sense. Even the most loyal Democratic partisans would likely agree that the presidential nominating process has its flaws, and a reform-minded campaign like Sanders' has reason to advocate major changes going forward, even if those tweaks won't change the outcome this year.
It's not like the status quo is sacrosanct. On the contrary, the Democratic process has been changed many times over the decades, including progressive reforms such as proportional delegate distribution -- an idea championed by Jesse Jackson and his backers in the 1980s.
So, what kind of changes could Democrats make? Greg highlighted a bunch of them, and the possibilities are likely familiar to those who've watched -- and occasionally been frustrated by -- the process as it currently exists. Caucuses, for example, which nearly always make participation far more difficult, could be replaced with an all-primary system that makes voting easier. Maybe the role of super delegates could be diminished or eliminated.
Perhaps Democrats should have a debate about the role of independents voting in their nominating contests. Maybe the party could talk about spacing primaries out so that it's easier for candidates to focus on one race at a time.
Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.