Among Republicans, there's a broad understanding that the party's "establishment" is not well liked among the GOP's grassroots activists. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump have risen the top of the polls at least in part because of their hostility towards Republican insiders and leaders. At many far-right gatherings, the easiest way to hear boos is to mention John Boehner's or Mitch McConnell's names.
It's reached the point at which even the most establishment figures in GOP politics, including officials like Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), say things like, "I'm personally very offended to be called the 'establishment.'"
But among Democrats, it's a very different story. Rank-and-file Dems, for example, remain highly supportive of President Obama. No one ever boos Nancy Pelosi at progressive events. Major membership organizations that share many Democratic goals tend to be celebrated, not derided, in center-left circles.
And with this in mind, there was an interesting exchange on the show last night when Rachel asked Bernie Sanders about Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the Human Rights Campaign officially endorsing Hillary Clinton's campaign over his own. "Are you competing for those groups' endorsements and not getting them, or are you not trying to get them?" Rachel asked. The senator responded:
"I would love to have the endorsement of every progressive organization in America. We're very proud to have received recently the endorsement of MoveOn.org. We've received the endorsement Democracy for America. These are grassroots organizations representing millions of workers.
"What we are doing in this campaign, it just blows my mind every day because I see it clearly, we're taking on not only Wall Street and economic establishment, we're taking on the political establishment.
"So, I have friends and supporters in the Human Rights Fund and Planned Parenthood. But, you know what? Hillary Clinton has been around there for a very, very long time. Some of these groups are, in fact, part of the establishment."
In context, Sanders misspoke when he referenced the Human Rights Fund instead of the Human Rights Campaign.
Regardless, there's certainly some truth to the senator's pitch: Sanders is a very different kind of candidate, who operates outside the usual power structures. Indeed, Sanders is an independent running in a Democratic primary.
But his strategy, especially as articulated last night, is not without risks.
The New York Times' David Brooks, a center-right pundit, has made no secret of his concerns about the modern Republican Party. In October, the columnist wrote a piece condemning today's GOP for abandoning conservatism for what he identified as "right-wing radicalism."
Condemning the likes of Ted Cruz and the House Freedom Caucus, Brooks added, "Really, have we ever seen bumbling on this scale, people at once so cynical and so naïve, so willfully ignorant in using levers of power to produce some tangible if incremental good? These insurgents can't even acknowledge democracy's legitimacy.... These figures are masters at destruction but incompetent at construction. These insurgents are incompetent at governing and unwilling to be governed."
Three months later, it appears many of those same Republicans are in a powerful position in the party's presidential nominating contest, which has pushed the New York Times writer just a little closer to wholesale apoplexy. After writing yesterday that Ted Cruz or Donald Trump presidency might "genuinely endanger" the United States, Brooks made an appeal to his allies in the party.
Governing conservatism has to offer people a secure financial base and a steady hand up so they can welcome global capitalism with hope and a sense of opportunity. That's the true American tradition, emphasizing future dynamism not tribal walls. There's a silent majority of hopeful, practical, programmatic Republicans. You know who you are.
Please don't go quietly and pathetically into the night.
I can understand Brooks' panic. What I can't understand is who he's referring to?
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R), the longest serving governor in the history of the United States, is unlikely to make an endorsement before his state's 2016 primary, now just 12 days away. Yesterday, however, Branstad took the unusual step of announcing exactly which candidate he wants GOP voters to reject.
In a rare hard-lined stance on the 2016 race, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said Tuesday he believes a Senator Ted Cruz caucus victory would be "damaging" to the state.
When asked by NBC affiliate WHO if Governor Branstad hoped that Cruz would be defeated in Iowa in the February 1st Republican caucus, he said, "Yes."
The governor made the comments at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit, and that context matters: Branstad doesn't seem to oppose Cruz because of the senator's conservativism; Branstad believes Cruz would "damage" Iowa by curtailing federal ethanol subsidies.
Indeed, the governor was speaking at an event that encourages federal ethanol subsidies, while Branstad's son works for a pro-ethanol group that's trying to undermine Cruz's campaign over the issue of ethanol subsidies.
At least on the surface, this hardly seems like good news for the Texas Republican. Among all the early nominating states, Iowa is the state in which Cruz is strongest, and if the senator comes up short in the Hawkeye State, it will be that much more difficult for him to advance. For Iowa's sitting, six-term, Republican governor to denounce Cruz -- and no other candidate -- seems like a serious setback at a critical time.
But it's important to understand the pitch Cruz is making to the state's conservative base.
Rachel Maddow reports on the latest developments in the Flint, Michigan water crisis, including the mayor of Flint visiting the White House, the federal government sending a Health and Human Services official to help coordinate the response, and Governor Rick Snyder apologizing to the people of Flint in his State of the State address. watch
Rachel Maddow reviews the history of Sarah Palin's time in the national spotlight and the unfailing loyalty John McCain has shown to her, making Palin's endorsement of Donald Trump after Trump denied John McCain's war heroism a shocking betrayal. watch
Senator Bernie Sanders, Democratic candidate for the presidential nomination, talks with Rachel Maddow about the Flint toxic water crisis, the threadbare Democratic primary debate schedule, and how he feels about some of Hillary Clinton's big-name endorsements. watch
* Iraq: "To celebrate Ramadan, Islamic State militants in Iraq reportedly hosted a Quran memorization competition last June in Mosul. The stakes were high: The three winners would be awarded sex slaves. It was just one of dozens of accounts of life under the Islamic State published Tuesday in a harrowing United Nations report, which found that at least 18,802 civilians were killed in Iraq between January 2014 and October 2015."
* China: "China's economy grew at its slowest rate in 25 years last year, according to official statistics released Tuesday. The Communist-led country saw its economy expand 6.9% overall in 2015 and 6.8% the last quarter, the National Bureau of Statistics said."
* A wild ride: "U.S. stocks finished mostly higher on Tuesday, as the S&P 500 and Dow industrials managed to hold on to minor gains amid a renewed rout in oil prices that took the wind out of an early rally."
* The Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon: "[T]he lack of confrontation by federal officials has not only prevented it from becoming the next Waco or Ruby Ridge but transformed it into a peculiar and mundane sideshow."
* Wait, are we still talking about this? "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is pressuring Democrats ahead of a procedural vote Wednesday on legislation freezing the acceptance of refugees from Syria and Iraq."
* On this, he's correct: "Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday blasted the Republican field for their rhetoric on destroying the Islamic State." He specifically told MSNBC, "First of all they, they don't know what they're talking about."
Campaign observers learned early on last year that the phrase "going too far" doesn't really apply to Donald Trump. In July, at a forum in Iowa, the Republican presidential hopeful went after John McCain's military service, telling a far-right audience, "I like people that weren't captured, okay?" Many assumed Trump would have to walk that back. He didn't.
Many party officials and McCain allies were publicly disgusted by Trump's remarks. Sarah Palin, however, wasn't among them.
Six months later, McCain's former running mate, the former half-term Alaska governor, has decided Trump is the right candidate to lead the nation.
Former Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin will endorse Donald Trump Tuesday, NBC News has confirmed. [...]
Palin, who has reemerged on the political scene recently as the primary approaches, has long positioned herself as the anti-establishment candidate. Palin's endorsement of Trump is a blow to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz who is also trying to appeal to voters angry and the traditional ranks of the Republican Party.
MSNBC's Ari Melber joked on Twitter, "Politician turned reality show star endorses reality show star turned politician."
It's a welcome development for Trump, especially so close to the Iowa caucuses, who has received precious few endorsements from GOP officials. Indeed, Palin is the first governor -- current or former -- to throw his or her support to the controversial New York developer.
Palin's support is not completely out of the blue. The Alaska Republican said in September she'd welcome an opportunity to join a Trump cabinet if he's elected, and Palin even suggested she'd like to be Energy Secretary. She saw it as a "short-term job" because Palin would like to eliminate the agency altogether. (No one told her this would take an act of Congress, and wouldn't be up to the Energy Secretary.)
Trump has also said he'd "love" to have Palin in his administration's cabinet.
The next question, of course, is whether today's news is likely to make much of a difference in the 2016 race.
Two weeks ago, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was asked why he was moving forward with a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act before the Republican alternative is ready. The Republican leader told reporters with a smile, "Just wait."
What he did not say was how long a wait he had in mind.
We were told that 2015 was going to be different. Ryan personally took over a GOP "working group" intended to, at long last, write the Republicans' alternative to the dreaded "Obamacare." Then-House Speaker John Boehner promised Fox News, "There will be an alternative, and you're going to get to see it."
That, obviously, didn't turn out well. And yet, there was Ryan once more, vowing late last week to have a "complete agenda" in place by the time the party's presidential nominee is clear. Might that agenda include the GOP's reform plan? According to the New York Times, probably not.
It was unclear ... whether Republicans will actually present a plan to replace the current health care law that has been their central policy punching bag since they took over the House.
Republican leaders in the House and Senate demurred on whether they would write and vote on a bill this year.
Paul Krugman added the other day, "Lucy just snatched the football away, again. Republicans assured us that this year they really would, seriously, roll out their alternative to Obamacare. Or, maybe, not."
When Paul Ryan said in early December that there's an "urgent" need for his party to craft a health care plan, he evidently wasn't being overly literal.
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.