IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/05/12

Guests: Karen Finney, Chris Hayes

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Happy Thursday. Thanks for joining us this hour. The chairman of the Republican Party has the best name in American politics. His name is Reince Priebus. Reince Priebus, the former Wisconsin Republican Party chairman. And today, Reince Priebus made himself the most famous he has ever been for anything other than his amazing name. He made himself very, very famous today by telling Al Hunt of Bloomberg News that as Republican Party chairman, he does not understand why everybody keeps carping about the Republicans having some sort of problem with women. He said he does not understand why there`s a 30-point gender gap between the two parties in the presidential race in the swing states. He says he does not understand why everyone keeps asking him about the ridiculous idea that Republicans have some sort of war on women. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AL HUNT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: The Democrats, of course, say you`re waging -- the GOP is waging a war on women. I know you don`t agree with that. But looking at the polls, you have a gender gap problem. I mean, recent polls show a huge, huge margin for Democrats with -- among women voters. How big of a problem is it and how do you close it? REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: Well, for one thing, if the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we`d have a problems with caterpillars. I mean, the fact of the matter is, it`s a fiction. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You know, I think there`s just one piece missing from what otherwise is obviously a perfect analogy of women as caterpillars. I think there`s just one thing missing. If Democrats said that Republicans had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media said we had a war on caterpillars, the Republican Party would not then just automatically have a problem with caterpillars. There is a missing piece of this analogy here, right? In this analogy, what Reince Priebus is missing is the part where the Republican Party introduces hundreds of pieces of legislation all over the country attacking the rights of caterpillars, which in his analogy is in fact what the Republican Party has been doing. The Republican Party in this analogy has to be seen as a radically, what, anti-cocoon party? Anti-caterpillar, pro-cocoon -- sacrifice the caterpillar, save the cocoon? Metamorphosis? I don`t know. There is an empirical reason why the President Obama is leading the likely Republican nominee by a two-to-one margin among women under the age of 50 in the big swing states right now. And it is not because of some spurious allegation by Democrats. It`s not the media reporting that Republicans are doing things that Republicans haven`t actually done. It`s because the Republicans took control of the House. They said they were going to focus on jobs, jobs, jobs and then H.R. 3, literally their third bill, was an anti abortion bill. It`s because Republicans said they were going to play hardball and shot down the government over the new found excitement over fiscal conservatism. But when it came down to, they threatened to shut down the government over funding for Planned Parenthood. It`s because House Republicans consulted this all-male witness table and the issue of access to contraception and because Republicans in the Senate then voted unanimously, except for Olympia Snowe, to roll back access to contraception. And even after they realized how that looked and they got a little shy on the issue in the House, Republicans in the House still moved last week in committee on yet another federal anti-abortion bill. These are not things that Democrats are not just accusing Republicans of doing. These are not things that the media is making up about Republicans. Reince Priebus, this is your life. This is what Republicans do, under your leadership as Republican Party chairman. All four remaining Republican presidential candidates are pledging to eliminate federal funding for family planning. All four of them support personhood measures which defined life as beginning roughly at the time of the twinkle in your eye and that would have the practical effect of banning all abortion and probably also banning the pill. You don`t have a problem with caterpillars because caterpillars have been misled about your intentions. You`re the Orkin Man, dude. Particularly because being chairman of the Republican Party is being chairman of the whole party, including Republicans in the state legislatures. This is what Republicans in the state legislatures have been focusing on since they won so many seats and governorships in the last election. Watch what happened with abortion restrictions in the state after the Republican big victories in 2010. Here`s the number of new anti-abortion laws, each year through 2010. And, now look, here`s -- oops, that`s what happened last year. More than 90 anti-abortion bills signed into law in the states in that year after Republicans took over. So far this year, largely Republican-led legislatures have introduced more than 400 anti-abortion bills. This is what you guys do. This is what you work on. Sometimes it seems like this is what you work on under the exclusion of everything else. In Mississippi today, Republicans are sending to their governor legislation that the Republicans are openly wishing and hoping is going to end all access to legal abortion in the state of Mississippi. It`s one of the so-called trap laws -- a law that radically ups the amount of regulation and red tape and rules that apply specifically to abortion providers, specifically trying to drive them out of business or shut them down through targeted overregulation. Republicans have proposed anti-abortion trap laws this session in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, West Virginia. The idea with these measures is that Republicans are supposed to pretend that these laws aren`t anti-abortion per se. It`s just that in this particular field, Republicans like a lot of regulation. They think that red tape is good for their state in this one particular field. It has nothing to do with abortion. Any impact in driving abortion providers out of business is purely coincidental. Coincidental and unintentional. That`s how you`re supposed to play trap attack on abortion right, right? In Mississippi, they have forgotten that that`s the way they are supposed to say it. Here`s the state`s Republican governor talking about how excited he is to be using deliberately overregulation in an effort to make it impossible for anybody in Mississippi to get a legal abortion. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) MISSISSIPPI LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR TATE REEVES: It has been seven years since we have got good pro-life legislation passed out of the Mississippi legislature. That`s a bill that gives us a great opportunity to do -- to accomplish what our goal needs to be. Our goal needs to be to end all abortions in Mississippi. I believe the admitting privileges bill gives us the best chance to do that. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: Reince Priebus, this is your life when your party at the federal level and at the state level and in hearing rooms and in state houses and even on the presidential campaign trail is constantly and tirelessly and relentlessly waging war on women`s rights. You don`t need the Democrats or the media to help give you a reputation for that. Dude, you have earned it. You guys are earning it every single day. Either own and don`t be afraid to run on your record, or stop doing it. Those are your choices. Joining us now is Karen Finney. She is a former Democratic Party communications director, a columnist for the Hill and MSNBC contributor. Karen, it`s good to see you. Thank you for being here. KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to see you, too, Rachel. MADDOW: As somebody who has been a professional in this field, as somebody who used to be in charge of messaging for the Democrats, how would you respond to Reince Priebus` argument about the war on women today? He says it`s fake. It`s as ridiculous as the idea that Republicans are waging war on caterpillars. FINNEY: Yes, I was a little surprise about the caterpillars, because, you know, they don`t believe in science either. And I though, well, gee, we`re going into science biological areas. Look, here`s the thing, on the one hand, they are not stupid. They know behind the scenes even though they won`t admit it publicly, this conversation is hurting them. When you talk to moderate Republicans who won`t say so publicly, unfortunately -- privately, they see the same polling numbers that the rest of us do. I mean, it`s not only like the "USA Today"/Gallup poll which shows President Obama with a 19-point lead. It was other polling, looking specifically at Virginia and how Democrats have increased their popularity in Virginia. There is polling that suggests that they are starting to lose men over this issue. The problem is, what Priebus is trying to do is they want to pivot, right? I mean, that is a classic communication tactic. They want to change the conversation. Unfortunately, what he doesn`t get is that trying to demean and diminish the importance of what`s going on here by talking about caterpillars is not the way to do it because the accumulative effect of all of the laws that you were just talking about really served to undermine women as credible, thoughtful human beings and equal participants in our society. That`s what I think a lot of women are feeling. The language that has been used is so disgusting. You know, you`ve had state legislatures in more than one state talking about the fear that women will use rape as a loophole in order to get access to an abortion. I mean, that`s just ridiculous. Women are really tired of being talked about in that manner because, again, it sort of demeans and undermines us as human beings. MADDOW: Karen, the gender gap in politics, in elections broadly speaking, usually tends to favor Democratic candidates. Not always but usually. But that gender gap, as you point out, really is huge right now between President Obama and Mitt Romney. You`ve just described a lot of things that you think Reince Priebus is doing wrong in trying to turn that around as chairman of the Republican Party. What do you think would be a better way for them to do it, if Republicans do try to turn that around and they`re going to have to -- how do you think they will try to and what do you think would be their best approach? FINNEY: Well, I mean, certainly they don`t want to continue to have this conversation about contraception. For starter, they could stop talking to women like we`re idiots going back tot the days when people thought we were too stupid to be able to vote or, you know, take care of our own money, for heaven`s sake. So, their rhetoric, obviously, has got to change. But here`s the other fundamental problem, Rachel. Part of the reasoning, I don`t think most women really want to be having this conversation about contraception because we all thought it was settled. We do care about the economy. Most women -- the White House will talk about this tomorrow -- would rather talk about access to capital for small businesses, would rather talk about ways that the economy is going to come back because women, we are the majority of the workforce in this country. For most families in the middle class, it is the women salary that keeps in the middle class. Women make a lot of these decisions for families. So that is what we want to talk about. But if you start to threaten our basic fundamental access to things that we thought were settled, that`s when women say, wait a second. That`s so too far. So, again, I think if they were to change their rhetoric and actually start talking to women like thoughtful credible human beings on a range of issues rather than -- I mean, you know, Mitt Romney saying, well, my wife and reports back to me on what women talk about rather than just go talk to women, right? Like President Obama gets it, just talk to women, talk to us about the issues we care about and understand that we care about a range of issues. But we`re not going to let you treat us like we`re less than equal human beings. MADDOW: Karen Finney, former DNC communications director, columnist for "The Hill," MSNBC contributor, and one of the people in America least likely to give advice to Reince Priebus that will actually be accepted. FINNEY: True. MADDOW: Still though, we would try. Thanks, Karen. Appreciate it. FINNNEY: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. Hey, we have a big exclusive coming up on the show tonight. A bit of a political bombshell concerning the state of Michigan. This is reporting that nobody else has. That`s ahead on the show. We`ve been working on this for quite some time. Plus, Mitt Romney decides that what he really, really hates is Harvard -- people who went to Harvard, like him. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is Mitt Romney and his wife Ann and two of their sons looking sort of adorable, at a clam bake in 1973. This was a clam bake held at the Harvard Business School where Mr. Romney at the time was a student. Mitt Romney is a Harvard man. That`s how he got to Massachusetts in the first place. After growing up in Michigan and graduating from BYU undergrad, Mr. Romney spent four years at Harvard earning both a Harvard law degree and a Harvard business degree. This is Mr. Romney with a few of his Harvard school business study buddies. They apparently get together every five years for a mini-Harvard reunion. Mitt Romney, Harvard man, which in a weird way explains Mr. Romney`s line of attack today against President Obama. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a president who I think is a nice guy, perhaps he spent too much at Harvard perhaps or maybe doesn`t have enough time actually working in the real world. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Mitt Romney, as we discussed on this show last night, has exactly one trick as a presidential candidate. You take some perceived weakness about his own candidacy and you say that it`s actually Barack Obama`s weakness. Does Obama spend too much time at Harvard thing? This is sort of a favorite of Mitt Romneys. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: I didn`t learn about the economy just reading about it or hearing about it in the faculty lounge at Harvard. All of those years perhaps in the Harvard faculty lounge -- That may be what they think at the Harvard faculty lounge. But it`s not what you know from the battlefield. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Yes, don`t bring up battlefield, big guy. It is true that Barack Obama went to Harvard. He earned a law degree there. But Mr. Romney was in Harvard longer than Barack Obama was. Mr. Romney also sent three of his five sons to Harvard. Something like 14 of Mr. Romney`s policy advisers are either Harvard graduates or actual Harvard faculty, Harvard professors. But Barack Obama -- he`s the one with the Harvard problem, says the former governor of Massachusetts. Now, we`re just waiting for the Romney campaign press release attacking Barack Obama for all of his years at Bain Capital and what a lousy governor of Massachusetts Barack Obama was. While Mr. Romney is focusing essentially all of his rhetorical energy right now on attacking President Obama, he does still have a nomination to win technically in his own party. Mr. Romney made that Harvard quip today during a campaign staff in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania, of course, the home state of Mr. Romney`s main opponent now, Rick Santorum. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: I do believe that I will win Pennsylvania in the fall, and winning Pennsylvania at the White House. So this is a critical state for me. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Actually, Pennsylvania is not at all a critical state for Mr. Romney. If he wins it, he`s still roughly where he is now in the race, just closer to the end. If he loses, the loss will be chopped up to the fact that Pennsylvania is Rick Santorum`s home state and Mr. Romney will still be the expected nominee. The candidate for whom Pennsylvania really is critical is, of course, Mr. Santorum. He has been saying all along that his home state, the state that he represented in the Senate, is a must-win for him. But the latest polling out of Pennsylvania shows that that race is now starting to get away from Mr. Santorum. Mr. Romney appears to have opened up a small Pennsylvania lead. Last night on this show, I spoke with Rick Santorum`s chief strategist, John Brabender, and I asked him what happens if Rick Santorum does lose in Pennsylvania. Listen to his answer. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: If the Pennsylvania race does not go the way you want it to, if you come in second in Pennsylvania instead of first, do you even make it to May? Do you make it to -- JOHN BRABENDER, SANTORUM CAMPAIGN: Well, I mean, you reevaluate everything. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: If we lose Pennsylvania, we reevaluate everything. Rick Santorum has to win Pennsylvania. His campaign admits it. You cannot argue that you`re the most electable guy in the race if you can`t even win your home state. So what is Rick Santorum doing right now to make sure that he wins Pennsylvania? Rick Santorum is taking four days off. He`s taking four days off the campaign trail because, why not? Mitt Romney`s already running as if he is the Republican Party`s presidential nominee. Apparently now so are all of his opponents. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Hey, we`ve got a scoop tonight. It`s fresh reporting that you won`t see anywhere else about a story that we`ve done a lot of work on over the last year or so. I think this is potentially a political bombshell for the state of Michigan. That story is exclusive and it`s ahead. Stay tuned. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In America, there are no longer any Republicans for Environmental Protection. Republicans for Environmental Protection do not exist anymore. They used to exist. This was their logo. But they have abolished themselves as of today, getting rid of Republicans for the Environmental Protection name, perhaps because it started to sound like a laugh line. They have instead rechristened themselves, Conserve America. I know the name sounds like a scam mortgage company that`s going to trick your grandmother out of her house maybe, or perhaps a Newt Gingrich Inc scam direct fax campaign that pledges to give you a prestigious award if you mail Newt thousands of dollars. But Conserve America is actually the new name of the artist formerly known as Republicans for Environmental Protection. They`ve dropped ostentatiously the word Republican from their name. Before their big name change, this was their honorary board that included 22 Republican members of Congress. Notice that 17 of the 22 are retired members of Congress. Yes, it`s a good question. How many current members of Congress want to be known as caring about environmental issues? Just in the first year after taking control of the House, Republicans in the House voted to strip environmental protections more than 150 times. The thing is, this all seems to have happened to the Republican Party kind of fast. It was only the last Republican election when the Republican ticket, remember, was running on cap and trade. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Joe Lieberman and I, my favorite Democrat, have proposed legislation which is called cap and trade. It`s cap and trade that there will be incentives for people to reduce greenhouse emissions. It`s a free market approach. SARAH PALIN (R), THEN-ALASKA GOVERNOR: He`s got a good cap and trade policy that he supports. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was only 2008. The Republican ticket in favor of cap and trade, within just two years the exact same people were vociferously denouncing this thing that they had just run on. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PALIN: They have to address a little bit of the cap and tax is what I call it. Not cap and trade, and the devastation was already suggested that it would have on our country if it were to pass. CAIN: I will not and cannot align myself with a giant government slush fund. PALIN: It`s even worse than the financial hits that our country and we as individuals would take with cap and tax. It would so dis-incentivize work ethics and industry and production because we are so reliant on our energy source. CAIN: It`s cap and tax. It`s cap and tax. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: What changed? This was your own idea. Similarly, when Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts back in 2003, he liked the idea as well. Think Progress this week published this letter that Mitt Romney wrote to George Pataki, New York`s governor that year and says, quote, "I concur that climate change is beginning to affect our natural sources and that now is the time to take action toward climate protection. I believe that our joint work to create a flexible market- based regional cap and trade system could serve as an effective approach to meeting these goals." What changed? Mitt Romney decided to run for president, he pulled of the regional cap and trade system ands he now says that cap and trade is the gateway to hell. What changed? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Cap and trade was originally proposed by conservatives and Republicans as a market-based solution to solving environmental problems. The first president to talk about cap and trade was George H.W Bush. Now, you`ve got the other party essentially saying we shouldn`t even be thinking about environmental protection. Let`s gut the EPA. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Obama, the Democrats, they think they may have a winning issue here. Not in necessarily selling their own ideas about environmental protection but rather selling the Republicans wholesale abandonment of this issue. As Republicans for Environmental Protection strips the word Republican out of their name, are Democrats on track to strip away centrist voters, centrist Republican votes, who at least used to care about the issue? Are they on track to strip those voters from a Republican Party that clearly no longer cares about that issue? Joining us now is Chris Hayes, host of "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES," which you can watch every Saturday and Sunday at 8:00 a.m. Eastern here on MSNBC. Mr. Hayes, thank you for your time. CHRIS HAYES, HOST, "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES": Always a pleasure, Rachel. MADDOW: In our current politics, why does being pro environmental protection equal weakness? HAYES: Well, that`s -- there`s a long complicated answer that I will try to give a short version of which is, I think what we`ve seen with the environmental policy on the right is this sort of perfect alignment between the economic interests and the culture of our politics. It`s sort of right out of Tom Franks` "What`s the Matter with Kansas?" book, in the sense that there are huge incumbent energy interest, some of the most profitable corporations in the history of human civilization on the planet who do not want anything like cap and trade -- I mean, I call it cap and tax -- to be passed because it will be bad for them, right? I mean, it will be bad for them in the sense that it must make fossil fuels more expensive. They make money by pulling fossil fuels out of the ground. What has happened is there is a lot of money pouring into revving up the base on this issue by turning it into of these kind of a symbolic cultural war issues -- the big bad nanny state and socialists want to take care of light bulbs. And they have been amazingly effective at taking the issue and making it into sort of a badge of tribal pride that you are not one of those socialists, you know, Barack Obama-loving people that want to cap and tax. You`re for industry, you`re for hard work, and you`re for buying your own light bulbs. So they`ve managed to kind of take something that wasn`t a cultural war issue and made it into a cultural war issue. MADDOW: And so, I mean, most Americans don`t want to gut the EPA. Most Americans don`t want salmonella in the food supply, right? So -- but are you saying that essentially those being actual results of environmentally protective policies have been disguised with this idea of it`s nothing than a liberal elitism and that none of these things have any concrete benefits to regular voters? HAYES: That, partly that, yes, right? So, the part of it is that the gains, in some ways, the environmental movement, particularly EPA, is a victim of its own success, in so far as the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, and things like has been very successful, right? And so, the success becomes invisible at a certain point. But I also think the terrain upon which the biggest environmental fight has happened recently, over the last four or five years, the one you highly lighted which is climate change is a much more abstract issue. It` it is a tougher political sell for the environmentalist, for Democrats, for progressives, because it is not as tangible as clean drinking, as arsenic in the drinking water or as mass deforestation or preserving some plot of land that everyone can take photos of and it`s beautiful. And so, I think Republicans saw a strategic opportunity to both do something for their benefactors in the oil industry, but also because it`s a tougher position to advocate than some of the environmental fights that happened before that were more tangible. MADDOW: Briefly, Chris, do you think that the Democrats do have any potential traction at getting centrist voters, at getting voters who might care about basic environmental issues, even ones that haven`t been highly politicized, by caricaturing or just describing the Republican Party as being sort of radically anti-environment in the way that they weren`t three years ago? HAYES: I thought the way that you put it in the intro is exactly, right, which is that it is part of a larger story about a party going off the rails. And when you can point to the top of the ticket four years ago, advocating a position which two years later they were recanting as if march before a Stalin show trial, it shows there`s something that`s gone terribly wrong in the level of ideological extremism in the Republican Party and that feeds into something very dangerous for the Republican Party in the general election. We`re seeing it now in polling on independents and in swing states with Mitt Romney. MADDOW: Chris, the host of "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES," weekend mornings, from 8:00 to 10:00, right here on MSNBC -- Chris, thank you very much. Appreciate it. HAYES: Thank you. MADDOW: Right after this show, in "THE LAST WORD," Lawrence O`Donnell has as his guest, Abby Huntsman Livingston, one of Jon Huntsman`s famous daughters. Together, they will map out the rest of the Republican presidential race. That promises to be a good time. And here, a surprisingly gleeful correction and a RACHEL MADDOW SHOW scoop. All ahead. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Last night, we had the senior strategist for the Rick Santorum campaign here on the show. It was great. I love talking with Republicans. It`s really hard to get them on the show and it was really nice of John Brabender to be here. I thought it was a really good discussion. In our discussion last night, I brought up a couple things that Mr. Brabender`s candidate Rick Santorum has said that are not true, things that are blatantly not true, mainly, I brought up Mr. Santorum`s rants about the Dutch killing all their elderly people against their will. I also brought up what Mr. Santorum said this week about the University of California. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was just reading something last night from the state of California and that the California universities, it`s several -- I think it`s seven or eight of the California system of universities don`t even teach an American history course. It`s not even available to be taught. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That is not true. It`s really not true. And since not true, I asked Mr. Santorum`s strategist last night if Mr. Santorum will correct that just as a matter of integrity? Mr. Brabender told me our air last night that Rick Santorum would be the first person to admit he`s wrong if it does if fact turn out he was wrong about that. He was wrong, so today we followed up by e-mail to the campaign documenting Mr. Santorum`s error and we are now waiting for the correction. And in the interest of modeling good behavior, now I will do a correction of my own. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It is true that you can`t take American history courses at one campus in the University of California system, at least I think that you can`t. As far as I can tell, you cannot take a history classes at the University of California San Francisco. That`s because UCSF is a medical school. But, still, I`m sure there`s a reason to be outraged about that any way. After all, you know, San Francisco. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Correction. It turns out you can take American history courses at UCSF even though it`s a medical school. You can take all sorts of history classes. You can take the history of pharmaceuticals. You can take disease and social order from the Black Death to SARS. And, yes, specifically, American history. You can take a history course in 20th century American medicine. So when I said Rick Santorum was lying about history not being taught at the University of California, I was correct. I was wrong however to even speculate that his lie might be true for even just one of the U.C. schools. It turns out that Rick Santorum was 100 percent wrong. He was totally, utterly wrong. I`m sorry for suggesting he might not have been quite as wrong as he was. And that`s how you make a correction. And now, we are waiting for a correction from Rick Santorum. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. We`ve got a scoop here, a story that nobody else has figured out. It starts in Michigan. In the early 1960s, Michigan reworked its constitution a little bit. They had a constitutional convention. That guy that you recognize on the left, that`s Mitt Romney`s dad, George Romney. He chaired that commission before he became governor of the state. Now, one of the reasons they had this constitutional convention back then, one of the things they thought need tinkering within their state constitution was a specific question about when bills that were passed at Michigan would become law. So once something is passed, when does it become effective? This is the language that they settled on. Quote, "No act shall take effect until the expiration of the 90 days from the end of the session at which it was passed." OK. That`s a really slow process. That`s slow by design. The legislature is in session all year in Michigan. So, the legislative session doesn`t often doesn`t end until the end of the calendar year. What this little phrase means is that theoretically, a law could pass in January and not take effect until March of the following year, 90 days after the end of that year`s legislative session. Michigan has a really slow process on purpose. They did it that way on purpose. Laws taking a long time to take effect allows people who are going to be affected by that law to have time to adjust. It also gives people who don`t like that law a chance to start overturning it, by a citizens` repeal. Michigan designed that process to be a slow one, clearly and on purpose. It`s in their constitution that way for a reason. But as practical people, they also recognize that sometimes extenuating circumstances, you need your loss to take effect faster. Something has happened, right? Maybe you`ve been invaded or you have a flood, or an outbreak of disease. Something has happened. There`s an emergency that needs responding to right now by state lawmakers. To account for that in Michigan, while most bills do have to wait until the end of the session plus 90 days, they have to wait that really long time. The constitution also says this, "But the legislature may give immediate effect to acts by a two-thirds vote of the members elected to and serving in each house." So, that means with a two-thirds majority vote, a big super majority vote, you can have a new law go into effect right away, immediately. Otherwise, you wait. You pass it under normal rules, under a majority, you have to wait. If you want it to go into effect immediately, you need a two-thirds vote. That`s what they decided back in the 1960s. That`s what the state constitution says. Half a century later, January 2011, a new and hardcore conservative Republican majority took over the state government in Michigan. Republicans controlled both chambers of the legislature and they have the governorship. They have been passing bills at quite a clip. The Democrats in Michigan say that since Republicans took over the Michigan house, they`ve passed 566 bills. We have looked into that count ourselves. It does seem accurate and the Republicans are not contesting it. Of those 566 bills, 546, all about 20 of them, were passed under the immediate effect clause -- 96 percent of the bills they`ve passed have essentially been an emergency. Almost everything they`ve done has been done under this provision of the constitution that let`s you put things into effect immediately because you`ve got a super majority. They`ve been designed to rush from the legislature to Governor Snyder for a quick signature and into full immediate effect that day, that minute, right now. This is new in Michigan governance. This is not the way Michigan was set up. This is not the way it was supposed to be. This is if a cop once waved you around a traffic accident by directing you to drive on the shoulder to get around the crash and then on the next day on your commute and the every day thereafter, you just drove on the shoulder because you think that`s your lane now. Michigan Republicans are using what supposed to be an emergency provision for everything, even for the most contentious and partisan and divisive things they want to do. Republicans for example us immediate effect to take away health benefits for domestic partners of public employees, they jammed it through, Governor Snyder signed it, and then three days before Christmas, it was like, hey, gay folks, good luck finding health insurance for your families, we just stripped your benefits on the basis of your sexual orientation, starting now, starting today, effective immediately, merry Christmas. Republicans also used immediate effect to set the date and the rules for the 2012 presidential primary in Michigan, which did not end up going all that smoothly. They then used immediate effect to set aside $10 million to pay for that primary whose rules they had screwed up and rewritten. Republicans also used immediate effect to stop one of Michigan`s most powerful unions from expanding. Now, seriously, this is a fierce union, seriously thuggish. I`ll show you. Here they are conducting a labor action. Ooh. It`s the union of Michigan grad students. Michigan grad student employees, here they are staging a grade in, so everybody can see them at work -- grading papers from the classes that they teach. Are you afraid when you see this? Are you afraid of their vicious union thugliness? I think that guy stretched out in the banquette really looks like he`s ready to end academia as we know it, right? When these fearsome graduate students ask the state for permission to consider including more grad students in their union, Michigan Republicans went into emergency mode. They used the emergency immediate effect thing to hustle through a bill to block them. They hustled through last month under immediate effect, so immediate in fact that Governor Snyder signed the law against grad students` union rights and an hour and a half before the state hearing that could potentially have said yes to what the grad students union wanted to do. Never mind your little democratic process. Republicans are in charge now. Nobody gets a hearing. Nobody gets a vote. Grade this. You might recognize the sponsor of the bill to stop the grad students union. He`s the Representative Al Pscholka, the Republican freshman who represents a town called Benton Harbor in Michigan. In this picture, he is celebrating the signing of another bill he sponsored, the state`s revamped emergency manager law. That is the law that we have been covering for a year now. It`s the law that let`s the state take over your town, overrule the law that says Michigan Republicans, Governor Rick Snyder can strip democracy from your town if you they to. It`s the law that let the state take control of Mr. Pscholka`s Benton Harbor. Under this law, the state installs a single unelected manager who is free to fire all the elected officials, sell off the town`s assets, move to dissolve the town, cancel contracts, almost anything the manager wants to do. This emergency manager person just has unilateral control. In Michigan now, a long list of cities and school boards are run this way. They are being run as democracies anymore. They are being run as something much closer to dictatorships. And I realize that`s a very inflammatory word. But frankly, that`s what it is. When you have somebody in charge who has unilateral authority to do whatever he or she wants, that is autocracy. That is dictatorship. As has been their custom since taking over last year, Republicans passed the souped up emergency manager law naturally under immediate effect. They passed it on March 15th last year, the next day, the governor signed it and it took effect right then, immediate effect. And less than a month later, Benton Harbor`s emergency manager seized all power in Benton Harbor, took power from the town`s elected mayor and elected commission. In the span of one month, starting with the bill sponsored by Benton Harbor`s own representative, Michigan Republicans routed the democracy of that mostly poor, mostly African-American Michigan town. And they were just getting started. The emergency manager law is the reason that Pontiac, Michigan, got its own new boss who joked about himself being the tyrant in Pontiac. And remember the students who got arrested for protesting the planned closing of the Catherine Ferguson Academy, the school for pregnant girls and young moms? The idea of closing that girl was made possible by the new emergency manager law because the state appointed czar for the city schools didn`t have to listen to the elected school board anymore, democracy didn`t matter anymore. Those girls did end saving their school, but just barely. Here is the crazy thing. This is the thing that we have been digging for since we first got wind of this story last week. It is something -- it is astounding enough that I almost can`t believe it. I have to tell of you. My mind almost cannot compute what I`m about to tell you, that we reported this out carefully so we can tell you this with confidence. Under the Michigan constitution, remember, again, you can only make a law take effect immediately if you have a 2/3 majority, a super majority. Michigan Republicans don`t have that. In the House, they don`t have a 2/3 majority. In order to get a 2/3 vote, House Republicans would need the help of almost a dozen Democrats. You need 63 lawmakers on your side before you get what the state constitution says you can have if you want that immediate effect, right? You need 73 votes to take effect right away. So for the emergency manager law, for example, Democrats voted against that law in a block. Republicans did pass it with their 62 votes, and 62 votes is enough to pass it but not nearly enough for it to go into effect immediately. But regardless, they just attached immediate effect to it anyway. Look, it`s in the record. Quote, "Representative Stamas moved the bill be given immediate effect, the motion prevailed, 2/3 of the members serving voted therefore." That did not happen. I do not see how that could be true. Republicans don`t have a 2/3 majority and Democrats voted against the bill. So you`re telling me that a dozen Democrats voted against this radical, emergency manager takeover law thing, this bill that they hated, Democrats voted against it, and then once it passed anyway over their objections they decided -- oh, well, it passed, I guess I`ll vote to put this thing in effect immediately. Seriously? I mean, if you look at the numbers you need for immediate effect in Michigan and the numbers Republicans actually have, it does not seem possible that the emergency manager law or maybe any of these laws passed in the way Republicans are saying that they did. It didn`t happen that way. For the past year, we have been reporting on Republican governments in Michigan. For the past year, we have called emergency -- Michigan`s emergency manager law the most radical Republican legislation in the country. And if that radical, radical law had passed under regular rules. If it hadn`t been put into immediate effect, if they couldn`t get a 2/3 super majority to put it in effect that day when Governor Snyder signed it, then that radical law would only just now being taking effect. Now in 2012, Benton Harbor would only just now be losing democracy instead of barreling into the second year of having no local voting rights. That would not have happened yet. It appears that it should not have happened. Those pregnant girls would not have been arrested trying to save their school in Detroit. The law would be going into effect as of last week. The city of Detroit would not have been in the position of choosing between handing the state oversight of its finances as it did yesterday or facing an involuntary takeover. If you are an African-American living in Michigan, there`s a 50/50 chance that this year, the state of Michigan has considered scrapping your right to vote, scrapping your right to elect local officials to represent you. Well, Governor Rick Snyder and Michigan have done is radical beyond radical. And if it is true that the law should not have even been in effect all this time, if it is true that Republicans circumvented democracy and the legislature too -- then what do you call that? Radical beyond radical beyond radical beyond radical. It`s revolutionary, even, but not in a romantic way. You could call it bullpuckey, and I can tell you now that finally somebody has. Michigan House Democrats have sued the House of Representatives. And specifically they have sued the Republicans in the House of Representatives. The Democrats say that Republicans are denying them the right to vote in the legislature. It`s not just for Benton Harbor anymore. It`s for the whole state. Democrats have begun demanding role call votes to see whether Republicans have this 2/3 majority they claim. They`re demanding an actual count to see if they have all 73 votes that the Republicans would need for these laws to go into immediate effect. This is the picture of the Democrats demanding a vote like that last week. Demanding it and not getting it. We asked the Michigan Democrats if they could provide us with an example of the way that Republicans are running the House, saying that they`ve got a 2/3 majority when it seems impossible that they do. And they sent over this clip from last month. This is amazing. What`s happening here, the context here is that Republicans have just passed a measure making it harder to get a repeal on the ballot, to get a citizen`s repeal on the ballot. So, as you know, Michigan Democrats want to repeal that emergency manager law, right? Republicans are trying to unilaterally change Michigan law to make it harder to repeal it. And naturally, they want that to take effect right away. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaker recognizes Majority Floor leader Stamas. (CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The speaker -- the majority floor leader has requested a record roll call vote. All those in favor, please rise -- I`m sorry -- the majority floor leader has requested immediate effect. All those in favor, please rise. Immediate effect is ordered. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Wait, that was the count? Depending on how you time this, the Republican speaker let the voting go on for I think three seconds before he gavels in his party`s success. What he is purporting to have done there is counting at least 73 votes in favor of the motion in a blink, in a snap. One, two, three -- 73. Like he`s a kid speed counting for hide and seek. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of those in favor please rise. Immediate effect is ordered. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: In that time, do you believe he counted 73 people in favor of that motion in the span of that clip? On Monday, a county judge issued a temporary injunction ordering Michigan House Republicans to follow the law, to follow the constitution, to let the minority vote even though the minority are Democrats. The court put on hold several bills that Republicans have passed using this kind of technique. Passed what appears to be illegally, including about that one about the grad students union. Republicans are appealing the judge`s ruling. Their arguments boil down to, A, they say no court can interfere with the legislature, and, B, they say this is dog bites man. This is standard operating procedure. There`s nothing to see here. This is totally normal. Keep moving. This case has implications for what happens in Michigan over the next few months and to some extents what happens nationwide. Michigan Republicans are now considering a law that would make it much harder to register to vote in the state. If that passes, under immediate effect and goes into effect right then, that will become a factor in 2012 race in Michigan. Also, Michigan voters voting on a bill that makes it harder to get a referendum on the ballot. That could affect the current drive to put the Rick Snyder emergency manager law up for appeal. Do you think Rick Snyder and his fellow Republicans would like repealing his law to be a harder thing to do? And does anybody else get a say in that? The 2010 elections ushered in a lot of radicalized Republican legislatures and governors across the country and have done a lot of radical things. Scott Walker is famous for a reason. But what`s happened in Michigan is the most radical thing Republicans have done anywhere in the country. They have eliminated democracy. They have eliminated voting rights at the local level in their state. They have tried to eliminate Democrats` voting rights in the state legislature. Whether you`re on the left or you`re on the right or you`re in the center or if you don`t particularly care about politics, if all you care about is that we have a form of government in this country called democracy, we vote. If you care about the idea that we still use voting here, we still use democracy, if you care about the Constitution -- frankly, Michigan ought to have a flashing red light siren on it right now. Thank you for being with us tonight. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END