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Trump presents a new, twisted version of 'populism'

11/11/16 12:56PM

I did a search on Google this morning for "Trump" and "populist." There were over 10 million results, and that total was a little less than I'd expected. Not long after Donald Trump launched his presidential candidacy, Americans have been told repeatedly that the Republican was leading a "populist revolt" within the GOP, pushing back against a stagnant, atrophied elite. Trump and populism started to become synonymous in the minds of many pundits.

But as we're quickly learning, there's more than one kind of populism. I tend to think of the broader dynamic as one that pits rhetorical populism against actual populism.

The president-elect has effectively cornered the market on the former. Rhetorically, Trump is A Man of the People, railing against the established order. The elites have run roughshod over the interests of everyday Americans for too long, the billionaire celebrity told voters, and it was time the electorate overturn the corrupt system by electing Donald J. Trump, a champion of those overlooked taxpayers who've been left behind.

Trump, in other words, has a populist style. He adopted a populist tone. The more Trump railed against the elites, the more the media characterized him as a populist, and the more his fans swooned.

But then there's actual populism, which is based on policies and proposals that advance the interests of working people. Real populists may struggle at times with style and tone, but they nevertheless fight for opportunities for those without, not those who are already members of the elite.

And if you mistook Trump as someone who believes in actual populism, I'm afraid he fooled you.
President-elect Donald J. Trump, who campaigned against the corrupt power of special interests, is filling his transition team with some of the very sort of people who he has complained have too much clout in Washington: corporate consultants and lobbyists. [...]

Mr. Trump was swept to power in large part by white working-class voters who responded to his vow to restore the voices of forgotten people, ones drowned out by big business and Wall Street. But in his transition to power, some of the most prominent voices will be those of advisers who come from the same industries for which they are being asked to help set the regulatory groundwork.
In August 2015, Trump told NBC's Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" that he's tired of everybody in Washington "being controlled by the special interests and the lobbyists."

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Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 11.11.16

11/11/16 12:04PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* The race for the next chair of the Democratic National Committee is likely to be pretty interesting, with several prominent figures, including Sens. Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders, throwing their support behind Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota. Elizabeth Warren also praised the congressman on last night's show.

* If Ellison seeks the post, he'll have rivals. Former DNC Chair Howard Dean said he also wants his old job back, and many others, including former presidential candidate Martin O'Malley, are expected to announce their intentions to seek the same post in the coming days.

* There's still one unresolved gubernatorial race from this year's elections: in North Carolina, Roy Cooper (D) has declared victory, but incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has, for now, refused to concede.

* Struggling to explain losing a presidential election they (and nearly everyone else) expected to win, some of Hillary Clinton's top aides are focusing their ire on FBI Director James Comey.

* Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will seek re-election in 2018, but his constituents shouldn't expect him to commit to a full term. As Rachel noted on the show last night, Sanders said yesterday he's "not ruling out" another presidential campaign in 2020. Note, the senator, who recently turned 75, would be 79 by the time of the next presidential election.

* Some conservative lawmakers in Israel said this week they believe Donald Trump's victory may mean the end of U.S. support for "a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

* Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) was elevated to her post when her predecessor resigned, but this week, she was elected to a full term of her own. The Oregon Democrat is the first openly LGBT candidate in American history to win a gubernatorial race.
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Real estate mogul and TV star Donald Trump listens as Michael Sexton introduces him to announce the establishment of Trump University at a press conference in New York, May 23, 2005. (Photo by Bebeto Matthews/AP)

'Trump University' fraud allegations aren't going away

11/11/16 11:18AM

A few weeks ago, Donald Trump's attorneys, defending their client against civil fraud allegations in the "Trump University" controversy, asked the judge in the case to exclude practically everything the Republican said during his presidential campaign. As the lawyers put it, Trump's rhetorical record might have undue influence over jury members who might be offended by his outlandish antics.

That request wasn't well received. U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the target of racist attacks from Trump during the campaign, ruled yesterday that such a request was overly broad and vague.

Which led to a separate, and arguably more curious, request from Trump's legal team. The Washington Post reported:
Attorneys for President-elect Donald Trump went to court Thursday to ask that a civil fraud suit against Trump scheduled to begin in less than three weeks be delayed, a reminder of the unusual complications facing Trump as he shifts from businessman to commander in chief.

Trump's attorneys said he will be too busy with the presidential transition to participate in the Nov. 28 trial involving his defunct real estate seminar program, Trump University. They asked that the trial be postponed until February or March, after he has taken office.
As the case has proceeded, the judge has been reluctant to delay the trial, in part because some of the alleged victims defrauded by Trump's so-called "university" are elderly.

But even putting that aside, it's hard to see the wisdom of the Republican's lawyers requesting a delay. Does Trump really want to be the first president in American history to give sworn testimony -- within the first two months of his first term -- in a case in which he's accused of fraudulent business practices?

Wouldn't it be vastly better to get this testimony over with in November, rather than have this linger as Trump's attempts at governing get underway?
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President-elect Donald Trump,  walks with his wife Melania Trump, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after a meeting at the U.S. Capitol Nov. 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty)

Why Trump's confusion about what a 'blind trust' is matters

11/11/16 10:46AM

It's a problem that Donald Trump and his team are confused about what a blind trust is. The consequences of this, however, represent a far bigger problem than is generally appreciated.

Politico reported late yesterday on the future of the president-elect's private-sector holdings, and the Republican's lawyer using a phrase he doesn't fully understand.
Donald Trump's vast business holdings will be placed into a blind trust with his oldest three children in charge, according to the president-elect's attorney. [...]

Asked who would run the Trump Organization, a privately held company with international and U.S. dealings in everything from hotels to real estate, golf courses to investments, [Trump attorney Michael Cohen] explained that Trump's adult children Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric would take charge through a blind trust.
"They're really intelligent," Cohen said. "They're really qualified."

And while I'm sure Trump's children appreciate the praise, their intellect and qualifications aren't especially important in the larger context. What matters here is that Trump's lawyer has described a blind trust that isn't the least bit blind.

Politico's report added, "[While Trump's] lawyer Thursday used the term 'blind trust' when discussing the family's upcoming financial arrangement, putting Trump's children in charge of a set of assets that their father is aware of does not constitute a blind trust. Under the legal definition of a blind trust, a public official places his finances under the management of an independent party. The official would have no knowledge of what is in the trust or how it is managed."

In fact, at some level, Trump seems vaguely aware of the problem -- though he doesn't actually care enough to handle the matter in a responsible way.
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Red velvet drapes hang at the back of the courtroom at the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, June 20, 2016. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Dem senator: A Supreme Court seat is 'being stolen'

11/11/16 09:48AM

As recently as Tuesday -- literally, the morning of Election Day -- Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) became the latest Republican senator to raise the prospect of confirming Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland during the lame-duck session. This was not an uncommon posture within the GOP: Wicker and others believed Hillary Clinton would win the election, so confirming President Obama's compromise choice would be preferable to whomever Clinton picked in 2017.

Except, of course, these same Senate Republicans were as surprised as everyone else to discover that Americans had actually elected Donald Trump. The lame-duck confirmation plan wouldn't be necessary after all -- because the GOP's Supreme Court blockade scheme, once thought to be a historic mistake, had worked like a charm.

Sen. Jeff Merkley's (D-Ore.) outrage is well-grounded -- and perhaps too rare given the circumstances.
A Democratic senator accused the GOP of "theft" for blocking President Barack Obama's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court so it can be filled by the Trump administration.

"We really have to pay attention to the Supreme Court seat. The seat that is sitting empty is being stolen," Sen. Jeff Merkley told MSNBC's Chris Hayes on Thursday night. "It's being stolen from the Obama administration and the construct of our Constitution. And it's being delivered to an administration that has no right to fill it."
The Oregon Democrat added, "There's no legitimacy to a Supreme Court justice in a seat that's been stolen from one administration and handed to another. We need to do everything we possibly can to block it ... it won't be DOA unless the American people understand that this is the theft of the court."

Merkley's rhetoric may seem a little over the top, but his position is worth considering in more detail. Senate Republicans launched the first Supreme Court blockade in the history of the country. As regular readers know, Americans -- at least those passively aware of current events -- have never seen such an abandonment of our constitutional process. As Republican politics reached new levels of radicalization, the intensity of their maximalist tactics arrived at an unprecedented and scary point.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did it anyway, gambling that (a) he could get away with it; and (b) his gambit would work.
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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump arrives for his election night rally at the New York Hilton Midtown in Manhattan, N.Y. on Nov. 9, 2016. (Photo by Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

With the election over, Trump has reclaimed his Twitter account

11/11/16 08:43AM

Leading up to Election Day, the New York Times reported that Donald Trump's aides "wrested away the Twitter account that he used to colorfully -- and often counterproductively -- savage his rivals." The Republican's staffers were so concerned about his erratic and "self-destructive impulses," they felt the need to silence him on social media before Trump could do further damage to his candidacy.

As President Obama joked soon after, "If somebody can't handle a Twitter account, they can't handle the nuclear codes."

Americans, however, didn't much care about Trump's unhinged tendencies, and decided to make him the leader of the free world anyway. And so, the president-elect has now reclaimed his Twitter account.
President-elect Donald Trump tweeted his displeasure Thursday night at "unfair" protests against his election and accused activists of being paid agents egged on by the media, putting an end to a brief stretch of conciliatory behavior since Tuesday.
Yes, the president elect complained last night that "professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting" his election. This is, Trump insisted, "very unfair!"

At face value, this may seem like lazy whining, and to a certain degree, it is. But it offers a peek into Trump's unique perspective: when he sees thousands of Americans taking to the streets to protest his election, it doesn't occur to him to reflect on deep national divisions or the damage his candidacy did to civil norms. Instead, Trump concocts yet another conspiracy: his critics must be "professional" protesters, because spontaneous outbursts of outrage from dissenting Americans are, in his mind, hard to even fathom.

What's more, the protesters must be "incited by the media" because news organizations, from Trump's perspective, must be in on the conspiracy that only he can see.

Remember, Trump said this less than 48 hours after becoming the president-elect -- a time when the Republican should be taking steps to reassure the public and the world that he's prepared to be a responsible leader.
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House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, June 2, 2016, in Janesville, Wis. (Photo by Andy Manis/AP)

After GOP wins, Paul Ryan puts Medicare in the crosshairs

11/11/16 08:00AM

After the 2004 presidential election, Republicans were right where they wanted to be. A GOP president had narrowly prevailed, and he was eager to work with a House and Senate that were also controlled by his own party. And what was one of the top priorities for this ascendant Republican Party? At the time, it was privatization of Social Security.

This did not go over well. The public was not on board with the plan -- many voters said it wasn't what they had in mind when they voted for Republican candidates -- and the privatization push not only failed, it sparked a rather intense backlash.

Twelve years after the last GOP sweep, Republicans are once again poised to take control of entire federal government, party leaders are establishing their new goals, and privatizing a popular social-insurance program is once again a top priority. In fact, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told Fox News' Bret Baier yesterday that Medicare privatization is high on the party's to-do list. New York's Jon Chait explained:
"Your solution has always been to put things together, including entitlement reform," asks Baier, using Republican code for privatizing Medicare. Ryan replies, "If you're going to repeal and replace Obamacare, you have to address those issues as well.... Medicare has got some serious issues because of Obamacare. So those things are part of our plan to replace Obamacare."

Ryan tells Baier, "Because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke."
This is critically important, in part because Ryan is brazenly lying. The budgetary reality, whether Republicans like it or not, is that the Affordable Care Act improved Medicare's financial stability, extending the system's solvency by more than a decade. There's an inside-the-Beltway assumption that when it comes to fiscal arithmetic, Ryan can be trusted to get the numbers right. The evidence to the contrary is overwhelming.

But in this case, it's also worth appreciating why Ryan is so shamelessly trying to deceive the public.
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Can US intelligence trust Donald Trump?

Can US intelligence trust President-elect Trump?

11/10/16 09:00PM

Rachel Maddow shares reports that members of Donald Trump's campaign team were in contact with Moscow at the same time that U.S. intelligence determined Russia was conducting a psyop to interfere with the U.S. election, and wonders how the U.S. intelligence community will feel about sharing top secrets about Russia and Vladimir Putin with... watch

Thursday's Mini-Report, 11.10.16

11/10/16 05:35PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* More respect for democratic norms: "After their first face-to-face meeting, President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump pledged to work together following a rancorous election, with the sitting president saying he wants to make Trump and his family 'feel welcome as we prepare to make this transition.'"

* And he's still correct: "White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that President Barack Obama stands by his characterization of President-elect Donald Trump as fundamentally unfit to be commander-in-chief."

* Afghanistan: "Taliban insurgents struck at the German consulate in the northern commercial hub of Mazar-i-Sharif late Thursday night, killing at least two people and wounding at least 84, Afghan officials said."

* It begins: "Officials at universities in Louisiana and California said the police were investigating attacks on Wednesday against female Muslim students, and officials described one of the episodes as a 'hate crime.'" [Update: In one of these cases, local police now believe the claims are untrue.]

* Open enrollment: "The day after Donald Trump's presidential election victory marked the strongest day of ObamaCare signups in this year's open enrollment period so far. More than 100,000 people selected plans through on Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced."
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A protester carries an upside down American flag as she walks along Sixth Avenue while demonstrating against President-elect Donald Trump, Nov. 9, 2016, in New York. (Photo by Julie Jacobson/AP)

'Not my president' protests prompt Republican complaints

11/10/16 05:01PM

Eight years ago, in a variety of cities across the country, many Americans poured into the streets in spontaneous celebration, cheering then-President-elect Barack Obama's victory. Eight years later, there were once again Americans in the streets, but as Rachel noted on last night's show, their message was very different.
Thousands of protesters swarmed the streets of several major cities Wednesday to voice their opposition to the election of Donald Trump to the White House.

Nearly 2,000 protesters gathered in downtown Chicago chanting "Not my president" and "F*** Trump" outside Trump International Hotel & Tower.... In New York, thousands of protesters could be heard chanting and banging drums as they marched past Rockefeller Center up Sixth Avenue, barely even acknowledging the rain.
That's really just a sampling. As Rachel noted on the show, we also saw protests at various times yesterday in D.C., Seattle, Portland, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Austin, Tempe, Nashville, and San Jose. In Los Angeles, anti-Trump protesters even shut down a highway.

I should note that such widespread protests are not common in modern American history in response to a presidential election.

Complaining about the protesters, Rudy Giuliani, among a variety of conservatives with concerns, told Fox News, "The reality is they're a bunch of spoiled crybabies."

Or maybe they're Americans practicing their rights to peaceably assemble, expressing their opposition to the election of a bigoted demagogue to the White House. I suppose it's a matter of perspective.
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About The Rachel Maddow Show

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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