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The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is reflected in a puddle on a rainy morning in Washington.

'Establishment America' doesn't recognize itself in the mirror

04/26/16 11:02AM

When a writer has a thought piece published by a major news outlet, he or she hopes the piece will be noticed. Indeed, practically every writer hopes his or her work will be read, considered, and talked about by as large an audience as possible.
 
To this extent, Jim VandeHei, a co-founder and former CEO of Politico, has succeeded beautifully with a new op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about his desire for a third-party presidential candidate. His provocative thesis has, as intended, become the subject of widespread conversation, and if the point was to get people talking, it's worked.
 
There is a difference, however, between receptive chatter and hostile chatter, and VandeHei's piece is generating the latter for a reason.
I have spent the past two decades in the Washington, D.C., bubble -- the heart of Establishment America -- covering politics and building a company, Politico, focused solely on politics. But I've also spent a lot of time in my hometown of Oshkosh, Wis., and my adopted hometown of Lincoln, Maine, two blue-collar towns in the heart of Normal America.
Note, right off the bat, VandeHei seems to consider "Normal America" small, rural towns that are overwhelmingly white. Given that most Americans live in cities, it's unclear why we should perceive urban areas any less "normal."
Here are my two big takeaways: Normal America is right that Establishment America has grown fat, lazy, conventional and deserving of radical disruption. And the best, perhaps only way to disrupt the establishment is by stealing a lot of Donald Trump's and Bernie Sanders's tricks and electing a third-party candidate.
When someone uses "disrupt" and "disruption" twice in a paragraph during a "Shark Tank" pitch or at a TED talk, it's annoying. When someone does it in an op-ed, it's a reminder to start pacing your eye-rolling, because what follows is likely to be exasperating.
Mr. Trump's vulgar approach to politics is a terrific middle finger to the establishment but a terrible political and governing paradigm. Same goes for Sanders-style socialism. But if someone turned the critique, passion and disdain shared by the two movements into a new one, they could change the system in meaningful ways. Only an outside force can knock Washington out of its governing rut -- and the presidency is the only place with the power to do it.
First, assuming that meaningful change has to start at the White House before it trickles down is wrong. Second, there is a "governing rut" at the federal level, but it's not because of a lack of outsiders; it's because a radicalized congressional Republican majority with no real governing agenda and no tolerance for working cooperatively towards common goals or compromise has taken root on Capitol Hill.
Voting booths are illuminated by sunlight as voters cast their ballots at a polling place on Nov. 6, 2012. (Photo by Jae C. Hong/AP)

Leading GOP Senate candidate faces disqualification

04/26/16 10:00AM

Given the prevailing political winds, Republicans are feeling a little pessimistic about the 2016 election cycle right now, but the party is not without opportunities. Many in the GOP believe Sen. Michael Bennet (D) is vulnerable in Colorado -- one of the country's most unpredictable battleground states -- and with the right candidate, this could be one of the few Democratic seats in play this year.
 
Finding the right candidate, however, has proven to be tricky. Initially, Colorado Republicans tried to recruit Rep. Mike Coffman (R) to run, but he declined. When they turned to Rep. Scott Tipton (R), he bowed out, too. So did state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman (R) and Rep. Ken Buck (R).
 
Left without a top tier contender, quite a few second-tier Republicans jumped into the race, and soon the state GOP, which had too few candidates, suddenly had too many: 13 Republicans were competing for the Senate nomination.
 
The field winnowed over time, and a favorite emerged: former state Rep. Jon Keyser (R), an Air Force Reserve major, was the top choice of party insiders. But as the Denver Post reported overnight, he's run into some trouble, too.
State officials said Monday that U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser failed to collect enough signatures to earn a place on the June 28 primary ballot -- a stunning blow that threatens to sink a campaign once hyped as the best in the Republican field.
 
Under state rules, Senate candidates who choose to petition their way onto the ballot must gather signatures from 1,500 or more voters in each of Colorado's seven congressional districts -- at least 10,500 in all.
 
Keyser fell short by 86 signatures in Colorado's 3rd District, according to the Colorado secretary of state's office, which reviewed his petition.
Part of the issue here is that Colorado, unlike many other states, does not allow voters to sign more than one ballot-access petition. In other words, if I sign a petition to get Candidate A on the ballot, and then I do the same for Candidate B, the latter won't count. If Candidate B submits the petition with my signature, it'll be excluded from the overall count.
 
And as a result, the top Republican candidate in this race may be disqualified.
An Amtrak train travels northbound from 30th Street Station, May 18, 2015 in Philadelphia. (Photo by Matt Slocum/AP)

Why the Pennsylvania primary stands out as unique

04/26/16 09:20AM

Voters will go to the polls today in five states -- Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island -- making it the biggest day for presidential primaries since mid-March. And while every contest matters, there's little doubt that Pennsylvania is of particular significance today.
 
Indeed, especially when it comes to the Republican race, the Keystone State may very well decide who wins the nomination.
 
At first blush, the way in which Pennsylvania allocates delegates may seem confusing. On the one hand, 2016 calendars show the state offering up 71 Republican delegates. On the other hand, we also know only 17 bound Republican delegates are on the line today.
 
So, what's this all about? The Washington Post explained last week:
While most states award convention delegates on a winner-take-all or proportional basis, 54 of Pennsylvania's 71 delegates -- three for each of 18 congressional districts -- are officially unbound to a candidate and do not have to announce their intentions before Tuesday's vote. The winners can vote for whomever they want at the convention.
 
"I picked a very interesting year to run," said Larry Stohler, 71, a former Lebanon County commissioner who says he would vote at the convention for whichever candidate wins here in the 6th Congressional District -- at least on the first ballot.
As you're watching MSNBC's live coverage tonight, keep in mind that one GOP candidate, probably Donald Trump, will win the most votes in Pennsylvania, which will give him an additional 17 delegates. That's good for him, but it's not a particularly large number. At the same time, the state's voters will also elect 54 unbound delegates, and no one really knows what they'd do at the convention.
 
And that's where the story starts to get more interesting.
Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders pose together onstage at the start of the U.S. Democratic presidential candidates' debate in Flint, Mich., March 6, 2016. (Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters)

The Democratic divide isn't quite what it appears to be

04/26/16 08:40AM

The results of the latest USA Today/Suffolk University poll were released yesterday, and the data "underscores the serious challenges" the likely presidential nominees face "to heal divisions within their own parties." While these divisions are already widely recognized in Republican politics, it was the Democratic numbers that stood out.
 
Among Democrats, USA Today reported, "four in 10 supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders say they aren't sure they would vote for Clinton." David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, added:
Don't laugh -- 13% of Sanders voters say they will vote for Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton. If Trump were to lose the nomination, 19% of Sanders voters would choose Cruz over Clinton; and if John Kasich were the nominee, 23% of Sanders voters would vote for the Ohio governor over the former secretary of State.
At first blush, this seems extremely hard to believe. Why would supporters of an apologetic liberal want to reward a radicalized Republican Party with control of the White House -- on purpose? One in five Sanders supporters are comfortable with the idea of electing President Ted Cruz? Is this some sort of typo?
 
I don't think the poll is necessarily wrong, at least insofar as it reflects public attitudes of the moment, but the political world should probably take a deep breath before looking at these results as necessarily predictive.
 
Let's take a brief stroll down memory lane.
Republican presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich speak on Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP)

A day later, the Cruz-Kasich alliance starts to unravel

04/26/16 08:00AM

Yesterday morning, Ted Cruz boasted that his new agreement with John Kasich was "big news." Around the same time, John Kasich assured reporters that his new agreement with Ted Cruz was "no big deal." The competing messages were the first sign that this Republican marriage of convenience was off to a rough start.
 
At least in theory, the plan, if executed effectively, could work to the candidates' benefit. As we discussed yesterday, the point is to consolidate the anti-Trump vote in specific states to increase the odds of a contested convention: Cruz is stronger in Indiana, so Kasich would agree pull back there, and Kasich is stronger in Oregon and New Mexico, so Cruz would give up competing in these states.
 
But as MSNBC's Leigh Ann Caldwell reported, it only took hours before the alliance started to fray.
[A]t a diner in Philadelphia Monday morning, Kasich said he wouldn't direct his voters to support Cruz in the Hoosier State -- a critical decision that could have the most weight in the state.
 
"I've never told them not to vote for me. They ought to vote for me, but I'm not over there campaigning and spending resources," Kasich said. The Ohio governor will still be on the ballot in Indiana.
 
It is becoming apparent that this is an agreement between the two campaigns to hold their fire against each other in just three states -- and a directive for the outside groups backing them to do the same.
This isn't to say a non-aggression pact is meaningless, but the Cruz-Kasich alliance was supposed to advance a larger goal: undermining Trump before it's too late. It took less than half a day, however, for Kasich to say his supporters in Indiana should most definitely vote for him, which is pretty much the opposite of the message he was supposed to make after striking a deal with Cruz. Indeed, Kasich's message also contradicted what his campaign co-chair in Indiana told local media yesterday morning.
 
And sure enough, a Cruz super PAC said soon after that it would leave an anti-Kasich television ad on the air.
Clinton: ‘We need to restore voting rights’

Clinton: ‘We need to restore voting rights’

04/25/16 09:55PM

Hillary Clinton explains how she would help families who were negatively affected by the 1994 crime bill signed by her husband, then-President Bill Clinton, and how she would help ensure that all eligible Americans are able to vote. Plus, Rachel Maddow asks Hillary Clinton whether military experience is something she is considering in a... watch

Clinton: Not enough to diagnose problems

Clinton: Not enough to diagnose problems

04/25/16 09:00PM

Hillary Clinton tells Rachel Maddow why her platform is the most realistic to achieve Democratic Party goals, and compares the 2008 Democratic presidential contest – which pitted Clinton against eventual winner President Obama - to the 2016 race. watch

Monday's Mini-Report, 4.25.16

04/25/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Syria: "President Barack Obama said the U.S. will send an additional 250 military personnel to Syria, significantly expanding the American presence there to fight ISIS. Obama made the announcement in a speech in Germany."
 
* Cleveland: "How much is a black boy's life worth? In the case of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, $6 million. That's how much the city of Cleveland has agreed to pay to settle a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the boy's family."
 
* North Korea "said Sunday that it successfully test-fired a ballistic missile from a submarine and warned of its growing ability to cut down its enemies with a 'dagger of destruction.' South Korea couldn't immediately confirm the claim of success in what marks Pyongyang's latest effort to expand its military might in face of pressure by its neighbors and Washington."
 
* The plan is called Vision 2030 and it's worth watching: "Saudi Arabia is a country near-synonymous with the oil industry, but now the kingdom is moving to end what it calls its 'addiction to oil' with a new plan."
 
* The Justice Department has dropped another court case "trying to force Apple Inc. to help authorities open a locked iPhone, adding new uncertainty to the government's standoff with the technology company over encryption."
 
* Not just VW: "Mitsubishi Motors' fuel-economy scandal broadened Friday as U.S. auto safety authorities said they were seeking information, and news media reported that the automaker had submitted misleading data on at least one more model than disclosed and likely several others."
 
* An opportunity to put things right: "Four Democratic lawmakers in North Carolina's House of Representatives on Monday introduced a measure to repeal the state's controversial House Bill 2, otherwise known as the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, which prohibits transgender people from using the bathroom in accordance with their gender identities."
 
* Oklahoma "is just a signature away from revoking the licenses of most doctors who perform abortions."
The RNC's graphics light up the Quicken Loans Arena, who will host the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Bill Clark/Congressional Quarterly/Newscom/ZUMA)

Two very different kinds of Republican convention fears

04/25/16 04:45PM

When Republican officials and insiders talk about their fears for the party's national convention in Cleveland, they're generally talking about the concerns surrounding the process itself. Will the voting go smoothly? How many ballots will it take?
 
But there's also a very different kind of fear unfolding. As Politico noted, some Republicans are worried about their personal safety.
In their Wednesday [Republican National Committee] meeting, the party chairs discussed developing security measures for delegates at the national convention. Louisiana chairman Roger Villere said he felt reassured by RNC chairman Reince Priebus and other party leaders that the security situation -- helmed by the Secret Service -- would be more than adequate to keep delegates safe.
 
"A lot of us bring our wives and children. Do we really want to? That's one of the things that was asked," Villere said. "They assured us that we would be protected."
And while I don't doubt that's true, what's striking is that these concerns exist at all. Ordinarily, both parties' national conventions are carefully scripted events -- sometimes derided as political "infomercials" -- in which the parties, their tickets, their candidates, and their base try to put forward their best possible message to a national audience.
 
In 2016, largely because of the unpredictability surrounding Donald Trump, his supporters, and the possibility of on-the-convention-floor violence, Republicans are forced to consider circumstances that would otherwise be unthinkable.

Democratic candidates differ on Philadelphia's soda tax

04/25/16 12:44PM

After a year of campaigning, it seemed as if we knew just about every point of contention between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, but on "Meet the Press" yesterday, NBC's Chuck Todd asked the Vermont senator about a relatively new one.
TODD: Why are you against the consumption tax -- the soda tax in Philadelphia -- that would pay for Pre-K? Universal Pre-K. Hillary Clinton's for it.
 
SANDERS: Yes. I'll tell you why. Because it is a totally regressive tax and right now, at a time of massive income and wealth inequality, when the wealthy are getting wealthier-- many of them pay an effective tax rate lower than working people. You have large multinational corporations not paying a nickel in federal taxes. That's where you get the money. Somebody's making $20,000 a year and they buy a bottle of soda, I don't think you charge them $0.30 more for that bottle of soda.
Sanders went on to note that he endorses Clinton's goal of universal pre-K, but he opposes the proposal put forward by officials in Philadelphia to pay for the policy through a soda tax.
 
This wouldn't be the first proposed soda tax, but it would be the largest: under the Philadelphia plan, the city would impose a 3-cent per ounce tax -- on distributors -- on sugary drinks. There's still some question about just how much of that would be passed along to consumers, but everyone agrees the cost of soda in the city would inevitably rise as a result of the policy.
 
It's also very likely that the tax would, in fact, be regressive, with evidence suggesting lower-income consumers are more likely to buy sugary drinks than higher-income consumers.
 
For local officials, however, it's worth pursuing a progressive goal -- universal pre-K -- even if that means adopting a regressive tax. Clinton is on board with the plan; Sanders is not.
 
So who's right?

Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 4.25.16

04/25/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* In keeping with the recent pattern, Ted Cruz's campaign dominated at Maine's state Republican convention over the weekend: "Nineteen of Cruz's slate of 20 delegates were picked for the Republican national convention, meaning that at least 19 out of the 23 delegates Maine will send to the convention in Cleveland will be Cruz supporters."
 
* In the Democratic presidential race, Hillary Clinton is up by double digits over Bernie Sanders in Pennsylvania, but her leads in Indiana, California, and Connecticut are much smaller.
 
* In Rhode Island, one poll shows Sanders ahead by four points, while another shows Clinton ahead by nine points. We'll find out tomorrow which one is correct.
 
* The latest PPP results show Donald Trump cruising to easy wins in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.
 
* On a related note, Trump told a Connecticut audience over the weekend that the recent chatter about him becoming more presidential is wrong. "I sort of don't like toning it down," he said. "Isn't it nice that I'm not one of these teleprompter guys?"
 
* In still more Trump-related news, the Republican tried on Friday to clarify his beliefs about transgender bathroom rights, but his comments didn't make any sense.

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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.

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