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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 11.9.16

11/09/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Given the last few months, it's heartening to see a candidate who still honors democratic norms: "In a gracious turn to her opponent -- and a nod to women and girls who saw her as a role model -- Hillary Clinton urged Americans on Wednesday not to give up on the values they embraced in her."

* On a related note: "President Barack Obama congratulated President-elect Donald Trump and vowed to work with his team to ensure a peaceful transition of power in his first public comments since the Republican's stunning victory."

* Russia worked hard to help Trump, and it's delighted with the outcome: "The Russian leadership appeared mostly heartened by Clinton's defeat. The State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, greeted the news of Trump's victory with an ovation."

* For all the right-wing victories yesterday, some progressive priorities advanced: "The lowest-paid hourly workers in four states won a boost in their minimum wage to at least $12-an-hour in Tuesday's election. Voters in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington approved increases in their states' respective hourly pay rates to at least $12 by 2020, according to late election results compiled by the Associated Press and Ballotpedia."

* On a related note: ":California, Massachusetts and Nevada legalized marijuana on Tuesday in what advocates said was a reflection of the country's changing attitude toward the drug.... [T]he percentage of Americans living in states where marijuana use is legal for adults rose above 20 percent, from 5 percent."
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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton concedes the presidential election at the New Yorker Hotel on Nov. 9, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty)

When winning more votes in an election isn't enough

11/09/16 04:57PM

Look at any map of the election results, and the presidential race doesn't appear to be especially close. And by the metric that matters, it wasn't: Donald Trump needed 270 electoral votes to win, and he'll end up with about 300.

But there is that other metric to think about. Slate reported:
Amid all the diagnoses of how Donald Trump won -- all the campaign postmortems and think-pieces and conservative crowing and liberal soul-searching -- a salient fact seems to have passed underappreciated.

More Americans appear to have voted for Hillary Clinton than voted for Trump.
The data is still coming together, but I think we can safely remove "appear to" from the equation. Americans were given a choice between two major-party candidates -- four, if you include the Libertarian and Green Parties -- and Hillary Clinton received more votes than any other candidate.

In practical terms, that's not much of a consolation prize, and it may seem to amount to little more than bragging rights. It could have some impact on the debate over Trump's "mandate," though it's hard to imagine Republicans caring.

But that doesn't mean it's irrelevant. For those taking stock of what's become of the American electorate, for example, and whether it's lost its moral compass, it matters that voters in the United States were given a choice -- and Donald Trump came in second.

It also matters when it comes to scrutinizing polling. While this looks like an election in which pollsters came up short, the fact remains that national polling showed Clinton up by about two points headed into Election Day, and when all is said and done, that won't be far off from her overall advantage over the Republican victor.

While we're at it, I'd be remiss if I neglected to mention that there's a certain irony to Trump's incessant complaining about the "rigged" political process: it's a system that will elevate him to the presidency despite earning fewer votes than his opponent.

And then, of course, there's the fact that Clinton won't be the first candidate to lose despite receiving more votes.
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House Speaker Paul Ryan speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 23, 2016. (Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Paul Ryan declares a 'mandate' for Donald Trump

11/09/16 01:04PM

For much of the fall, Republicans were eager to argue that Hillary Clinton, if she won the election, should not have a "mandate" to pursue her policy priorities. Now that she's lost, Republicans are eagerly arguing the opposite.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, who spent the past six months carefully navigating the controversial phenomenon of Donald Trump, gave the president-elect credit for a win that defied political odds and helped Republicans down ballot.

"What Donald Trump just pulled off was an enormous political feat," Ryan said in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, adding that he "just earned a mandate."
At a certain level, I can appreciate the Speaker's argument. It's true that elections have consequences -- whether the outcome is sensible or not -- and Trump has earned an opportunity to govern. Americans put the entirety of the federal government in the hands of radicalized Republicans, and the public should expect certain policy consequences for their collective decision.

But the funny thing about Ryan's declaration is that he seems to believe only Republicans can earn a mandate -- and that's not a credible posture to take.
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Mexican newspapers with their headlines referring to the eventual triumph of Donald Trump on Nov. 9, 2016 in Mexico City. (Photo by Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty)

The world sees a shining city in a ditch

11/09/16 11:59AM

Back in March, Dan Rather was on the show, reflecting on Donald Trump's rise, and he made a comment to Rachel that stood out for me. "I don't want to be preachy about it, but Abraham Lincoln described America as the last best hope of Earth," Rather said. "Well, can you imagine what people overseas, who understand that the stability in our country is the key to world order, and when they see those television images [of Trump events], what can they be thinking?"

It's not a rhetorical question. Trump himself told supporters last week, "Our country is a laughingstock all over the world," and though I suspect he meant it in a different way, his victory turned the claim into a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. The Washington Post reported this morning on international reactions to the U.S. election results:
The world gasped in collective disbelief on Wednesday following the victory of Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential race, with apprehensive allies seeking to put a brave face on a result they had dreaded and American adversaries exulting in an outcome they see as a potential turning point in global affairs. [...]

[B]eneath the assurances of business as usual, and even optimism in some quarters, was deep anxiety that Trump's win could fundamentally unsettle the global order.
It is a truth most Americans take for granted and rarely pause to remember: the United States enjoys an unrivaled status on the international stage. We're not just a global power, we're the superpower without rival.

Friend and foe alike recognize that the United States is the foundation for stability in the Western world, and there's an expectation that our leaders -- Democrat or Republican -- can be counted on to show sound judgment and stable leadership.

That confidence was clearly shaken during the Bush/Cheney era, when much of the world questioned whether the U.S. had lost its compass and Americans started sewing Canadian flags onto their belongings when traveling abroad, hoping to avoid confrontations with those demanding an explanation for the Republican president's failed foreign policies.

But President Obama -- and to a very real extent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- made it a priority to restore American credibility, and those efforts paid off. The damage was largely repaired in much of the world thanks to diligent diplomacy and sound decision-making.

And then Americans decided it was time to make a buffoonish television personality the leader of the free world. The domestic consequences will be felt for at least a generation, but the scope of the international consequences will arguably be every bit as dramatic.
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A voter casts a ballot behind a curtain at Smelser Town Hall, Nov. 8, 2016, in Georgetown, Wis. (Photo by Nicki Kohl/Telegraph Herald/AP)

Third-party voters played a key role in election results

11/09/16 10:47AM

As of this minute, there are still a handful of states that haven't been officially called by NBC News, though their outcomes won't change the result of the presidential election. If the current vote tallies hold, six states -- mostly in the Midwest -- that voted for President Obama twice switched this year, turning "red" in support of Donald Trump.

But taking a closer look at the outcomes, it's hard not to notice the importance of third-party voters and the impact they had on the outcome.

In Florida, Hillary Clinton lost by about 1.4% of the vote -- but if Jill Stein's supporters and half of Gary Johnson's backers had voted Democratic, Trump would have lost the state.

Similarly, in Pennsylvania, Clinton lost by about 1.1% of the vote -- but if Jill Stein's supporters and half of Gary Johnson's backers had voted Democratic, Trump would have lost the state.

In Wisconsin, Clinton lost by about 1% of the vote -- but if Stein's supporters had voted Democratic, Trump would have lost the state.

In Michigan, Clinton appears to be on track to lose by about 0.3% of the vote -- but if half of Stein's supporters had voted Democratic, Trump would have lost the state.
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When all the rules are broken, maybe it's time for new ones

11/09/16 10:04AM

In August 2015, the University of Virginia's Larry Sabato, a prominent political scientist, co-authored a piece on Donald Trump's electoral prospects. "If Trump is nominated," the analysis said, "then everything we think we know about presidential nominations is wrong. History has shown that presidential nominations tend to follow a certain set of 'rules.'"

Of course, we now know that Trump, nine months later, won the Republican nomination, and come January, he'll be president of the United States. But with Sabato's year-old piece in mind, it's worth pausing to appreciate the utility of what many, including me, considered the old "rules."

Because as of today, it's probably time to give Campaign Management 101 a new course syllabus.

After an election, it's not uncommon to evaluate campaign teams the way some might look at sports teams: those who win, practically by definition, did a good job. But just as the better team sometimes comes up short, a successful candidate sometimes wins despite comic ineptitude.

And in 2016, Donald J. Trump was a pretty horrible presidential candidate. That Americans voted for him anyway doesn't make this any less true.

Successful candidates build impressive teams, but Trump found it necessary to overhaul his entire campaign team three times since the spring, and the result was a leader-less operation featuring "a band of squabbling and unfireable advisers, with confusing roles and an inability to sign off on basic tasks."

Successful candidates cultivate a broad national network, but Trump didn't much bother with a "ground game."

Successful candidates win debates. Successful candidates lead effective nominating conventions. Successful candidates release their tax returns and maintain some level of transparency. Successful candidates have helpful surrogates. Successful candidates run on compelling platforms with meaningful solutions. Trump lost the debates, ran a ridiculous convention, embraced unprecedented secrecy, alienated his own party's leaders, and didn't see the point of offering voters any policy ideas.

And in the end, none of this mattered. Voters in most states just didn't care.
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Republican president-elect Donald Trump acknowledges the crowd as Vice president-elect Mike Pence looks on during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown, Nov. 9, 2016. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty)

The consequences of Trump's victory are coming into focus

11/09/16 09:09AM

David Axelrod, the former senior strategist for President Obama, has long espoused an interesting theory about national elections. As Axelrod explained in January, "Open-seat presidential elections are shaped by perceptions of the style and personality of the outgoing incumbent. Voters rarely seek the replica of what they have."

By Axelrod's reasoning, it's expected that voters will choose a new president who is roughly the opposite of the departing executive -- an assertion that looks quite sound this morning.

Some of this will be obvious immediately, because the shifts in presidential style will be jarring. President Obama is measured; Donald Trump is erratic. Obama is intellectual; Trump is incurious. Obama is honest; Trump is pathological. Obama is serious and committed to sound policymaking; Trump is clownish and dismissive of the details of public affairs.

But come next year, the stylistic differences will be an inconsequential afterthought by the time a Trump/Pence administration begins governing alongside a far-right, radicalized Republican majority in the House and Senate. The New Republic's Brian Beutler had a good piece on this overnight:
At a minimum, Republicans are going to do incredible violence to President Barack Obama's accomplishments.... Trump will almost certainly abrogate Obama's international climate agreement and the global powers agreement preventing Iran from creating their own nuclear arsenal. Republicans will send Trump legislation undermining Obama's legacy everywhere they can find congressional majorities to do so, and Trump will sign those bills. Republicans don't know how to repeal Obamacare, let alone replace it. But they will try.

The Supreme Court will return to conservative control, and over the next four years, it may very well become far more conservative. Voting rights will be further weakened; the constitutional right to abortion is vulnerable to abolition.

But things could get much, much worse.
There's a temptation among some to try to look for comfort where available. We collectively hit an iceberg, but maybe we can cling to some floating debris for a while until help arrives. Americans are resilient, and we've been through rough times before.

I'd like to offer some kind of assurances along these lines, but I can't do so with any honesty.
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When the wrong candidate wins the right election

11/09/16 08:00AM

Nearly two decades ago, "The Simpsons" aired one of my favorite episodes, "Trash of the Titans," featuring Steve Martin playing the role of Springfield Sanitation Commissioner Ray Patterson, a dedicated, competent public servant. I realize this may not seem immediately relevant this morning, but hear me out.

After squabbling with local garbage collectors, Homer Simpson grew to hate Patterson, and confronted the sanitation commissioner at his office, throwing around ignorant, self-gratifying nonsense. "I came to fight city hall," Simpson declared, despite having no idea what he was talking about. "I want to shake things up, Patterson. Stir up some controversy, rattle a few cages."

Patterson, eager to get back to work, tried to be reasonable, but soon grew impatient, telling Simpson, "Nobody wants to hear the nonsensical ravings of a loudmouthed malcontent!"

"Oh, we'll see about that!" Simpson responded, deciding to run against Patterson in the next election, assuming locals would very much like to hear the nonsensical ravings of a loudmouthed malcontent.

Soon after, the two had a debate, which to Patterson's great frustration, descended into farcical incoherence, with Simpson making ridiculous promises and displaying profound ignorance. "All right, fine," Patterson eventually told voters. "If you want an experienced public servant, vote for me. But if you want to believe a bunch of crazy promises ... then by all means vote for this sleazy lunatic."

Moments later, we learned that voters had elected the sleazy lunatic.

Of course, the results were disastrous, and the people of Springfield quickly realized they'd made a terrible mistake. At a town meeting, voters fired Simpson and agreed to give Patterson his job back.

Except, by that point, it was too late. "Oh gosh," Patterson said, feigning appreciation. "You know, I'm not much on speeches, but it's so gratifying to leave you wallowing in the mess you've made. You're screwed. Thank you. Bye."

America, I have some bad news for you. Your fellow citizens were given a very similar choice in this year's presidential election. They did not choose wisely.

And to paraphrase the wise words of former Springfield Sanitation Commissioner Ray Patterson, we're screwed.
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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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