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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 05/24/12

Guests: Chris Hayes, Jon Erpenbach

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thank you. We`ve got much more on Wisconsin, on our show, coming up this hour, too. That was a great interview, man. Thanks. SCHULTZ: Thank you. MADDOW: Thanks to you at home as well for joining us this morning. We`ve got more coming up on Wisconsin. In addition, President Obama came out and said he was in favor of marriage rights for same sex couples. Now, everybody knew when that happened it was a watershed moment for the civil rights issue and President Obama`s presidency. But nobody knew exactly what the practical political impact of that announcement was going to be. Coming up this hour on the show tonight, we`ve got some new, actually quite shocking evidence what that announcement of President Obama has done already. You do not get a 36-point polling swing in a two-month period on very many issues in this country. But we just got that. The details on that -- it`s pretty shocking -- are just ahead. You know, one of the weird news cycle footnotes on the president`s announcement to same sex marriage was that it caused the "Washington Post" newspaper to hold their big scoop about the Mitt Romney gay-bullying incident from when he was in high school. That piece was ready to go on May 10th, but "The Washington Post" knew that that story was going to get a ton of attention. Mitt Romney viciously bullies gay teen and they apparently thought that it would be too provocative to have that, in the paper, on the front page alongside historic step by Obama on gay marriage. So, they posted the bullying story online the same day as the Obama story. But they did not put it in the paper until the following day. And, frankly, like the Obama announcement, the Romney bullying story is another one of those things where we don`t know exactly what the practical impact is going to be, if any. I mean, it may have no political impact at all. But indelibly, it is now one of the things that voters know about Mitt Romney as a person. It`s a hard thing to forget once you learn something like this about someone, and it is not a flatter thing. According to "The Post" reporting, as an 18-year-old, Mitt Romney objected to the appearance of a, quote, "soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney who is perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality." This is how "The Post" reported it. "Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair draped over one eye. And Romney wasn`t having it. `He can`t look like that. That`s wrong. Just look at him` an incensed Romney told a friend in the Stevens Hall dorm. A few days later, Romney`s friend entered the dorm to find Mr. Romney marching out of his own room a head of a prep school posse shouting about their plan to cut the student`s hair. Romney`s friend followed the boys to a nearby room where they came upon the younger student, tackled him ands pinned him to the ground. As the student, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Mitt Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors. After "The Washington Post" published that story, Mr. Romney campaign initially denied that the incident had ever happened, then the candidate stopped denying it but laughed it off, said he didn`t remember it. And even though he didn`t remember it, he was sure he did not think that kid was gay. He apologized if anybody was offended and he laughed and he said it was a prank. Character issues are the great unquantifiable in electoral politics, right? Everybody thinks it`s very important, but it`s hard to define. And, frankly, who knows if this is the sort of thing that is going to determine how people vote in November. But you have to admit, even if you think it`s not going to be determinative, a story like this can`t help. If you`re running for president, you can`t tell people to unlearn this about you, but you really don`t want to remind them of it if you can avoid it. It casts the same kind of political faux as the story of Mitt Romney strapping the dog to the roof of the car. Mitt Romney once put the family dog in a kennel on top of the family`s station wagon and then drove that station wagon all the way from Boston to Ontario in Canada. The dog got sick on top of the car. One of Mr. Romney`s sons once told a reporter about how Mr. Romney pulled over, turned a hose on the sick dog, and then put the sick dog back in the kennel on top of the car and got back on the highway for more hours of highway speed driving. The pinning down the crying screaming student and cutting off his hair because you objected to it story and the scrapping the dog to the roof of the car and heading on the highway story, these are not going to be what the campaign for the presidency is about. But if you are the Mitt Romney campaign, you know that those stories are out there and you really, really do not want to remind people of these stories. You want to see the get-to-know the human side of Mitt Romney video his campaign put out a couple days ago? Nobody asked them to do this. This was not in the response to a query of any kind. They just want to put it out there so you know what`s on Mitt Romney`s mind. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My daughter-in-law, Mary Romney, Craig`s wife, this is their oldest son, Parker. And it was crazy hair day at his school today. He`s 5 years old. She says in her note that she used Borden`s, Elmer`s glue and egg white to get his hair to do that. So, I sure hope it comes out. But it`s awful cute and my guess is he won at crazy hair day at school today. Quite a kid and quite a mom. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I sure hope it comes out. If it doesn`t come out, you`re going to cut it off for him, sir? Maybe you and some buddies? I mean, this is unforced. Don`t remind people about your school days, hi-jinx concerning hair that you disapprove of. I mean, yes, this is a totally harmless video, right? This is a totally harmless video unless you happen to be the guy about whom the "Washington Post" two weeks ago put out a story -- totally damning story about your character that has all the same touchstones. Today, here was Mitt Romney at a campaign event photo-op at a school. At one point, Mr. Romney was helping a group of students with their assignment. What was their assignment? Make a sentence that uses alliteration. What was Mr. Romney`s contribution with the sentence with the alliteration challenge? (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) MADDOW: Can you see it? Dogs what? Dogs drive Douglas dizzy. Dogs and driving, seriously? I don`t know why Mitt Romney doesn`t get more credit for his gaffes, for being gaffe-prone, right? The Republican Party right now is trying to create the impression that Joe Biden is so gaffe prone that he`s a bad vice president. Mitt Romney ought to get more credit for this. I mean, bringing up the combination of dogs and driving and his disapproval of non-normative student hairstyles, when these are the two indelible character-related stories that voters might just have in their minds about him -- these are not the most important things in the world, but these are totally embarrassing, unforced errors from a candidate who gets all of this credit for being super disciplined and on message and not making unforced errors. Sometimes I think that credit is not earned. This ought to be a sleepy time on the campaign trail, heading into Memorial Day weekend, the Republican primary essentially all wrapped up, but still going on in a way that isn`t generating all that much attention, except when say Ron Paul wins Minnesota and everybody has to pay a lot of attention to it, if only to avoid reporting it. Congress is sort of barely in session here and there when they bothered to find the time. This ought to be a really sleepy time in politics, but actually it has not been. President Obama in particular has been ratcheting it up a new gear everyday, really aggressively going after his opponent on the economy and what he says are distortions of his record as president, on the newly controversial but still totally central issue of Mitt Romney`s time in business. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Since I`ve been president, federal spending has risen at the lowest pace in nearly 60 years. This other side, I don`t know how they`ve been bamboozling folks into thinking that they are the responsible, fiscally disciplined party. They run up these wild debts and then when we take over, we`ve got to clean it up. And they point and say, look how irresponsible they are. Look at the facts and look at the numbers. I`ve still got my day job and so I`m working hard solving problems, but I`ve got to pay attention to what the other side is up to. And my opponent in this election, Governor Romney, he`s a patriotic American. He`s raised a wonderful family. He should be proud of the great personal success he`s had. No, I mean, he has been extraordinarily successful at the final firm that he helped put together. But I think he`s drawn the wrong lessons from these experiences. He seems to believe that if CEOs and wealthy investors like him are getting rich, the rest of us automatically do, too. Governor Romney says that his 25 years in the private sector gives him a special understanding of how the economy works. Now, if that`s true, I got to ask -- why is he running around with the same bad ideas that have brought our economy to collapse this last time out? (APPLAUSE) OBAMA: I mean, either he thinks that they`re going to lead to a different result this time or he`s hoping you won`t remember what happened the last time. I`m here to say, we were there. We remember. We`re not going back. We`re moving forward. That`s why I`m running for president again. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: Now, the Romney strategy up to this point had been they wanted to talk about the economy, the economy, the economy, the economy, everybody the economy, that`s how they were going to stick it to President Obama. They assumed that President Obama would not want to talk about the economy, want to talk about other things. President Obama now seems very comfortable talking about the economy. And he is the one bringing it up. And because of that, Mr. Romney is now going to plan B, trying to change the subject. Over the last two days, Mitt Romney is trying to change the subject to education. Now, before these last couple of day, he has had some trouble communicating with voters on the stump on that issue. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was just curious, if he elected, what you would do with regards to college tuition, whether making it`s easier for me and my classmates or -- you know, with regards to that. ROMNEY: It would be popular for me to stands up and say I will give you government money to make sure to pay for your college. But I`m not going to promise that. What I`m going to tell you is shop around, get a good price. And I do feel this. I feel that if you`re willing to serve your country in the military, for instance, that that`s place where we`re going to say, yes, hey, we`ll give you help. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: To be clear, neither Mr. Romney nor any of his five sons served in the military. But that -- other than shopping around, looking for a good price, hoping you can find something cheaper, that has been the only concrete thing he has offered as a suggestion for somebody who can`t afford college because they were irresponsible enough to not be born to rich parents. That was Mitt Romney talking about education back in March. He has not had a good line on it so far, when he gets asked about it. But now, as of this week, he`s got a whole new role on the issue, for the big speech yesterday and the photo-op with alliteration sentence where he volunteered something about driving and dogs today. That event was in Philly today. When he was in Philly actually, Mr. Romney was greeted with a bit of a welcoming committee led why that city`s Democratic mayor, Michael Nutter, and the local district attorney. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MAYOR MICHAEL NUTER (D), PHILADELPHIA: As governor, Romney balanced the state budget as required by the state`s constitution, unfortunately, he did it on the backs of the students. By his second year, Mitt Romney had already forced Massachusetts schools to take the second largest cuts per pupil in the country. Those cuts forced schools to lay off thousands of teachers, along with librarians and even police officers. Not exactly a job -- not exactly a record as a job creator. SETH WILLIAMS, PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTY: When I showed up here this morning, these people were booing me because they thought I invited Mitt Romney. We know what we is! UNIDENTIFIED EMALE: Let`s get it straight! WILLIAMS: I did not invite Mitt Romney! (CROSSTALK) WILLIAMS: But you have a right to be mad (INAUDIBLE) Romney. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I used to live in west Philadelphia. I know exactly what he`s talking about. Inside that Philly school, Mr. Romney also faced some headwinds from some of the people his campaign set him up to meet with while the cameras were rolling. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: A number of folks said, well, we need smaller classroom sizes. That will make the biggest difference. I said, let`s compare the average classroom side from each school district, with the performance of our students because we test our kids and we`ll see if there is a relationship. There was not. So, just getting smaller classrooms didn`t seem to be the key. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t think of any teacher in the whole time I`ve been teaching over 10 years -- 13 years, who would say that they would love -- more stuns would benefit. ROMNEY: Of course. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t think of a parent that would say, I would like my teacher to be in a room with a lot of kids and only one teacher. So, I`m kind of wondering where this research comes from. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It is hard to imagine that Mr. Romney is going to run for president on the basis of saying that class size ought to be bigger. If you can put 20 kids in the classroom, why not 30, why not 50? It`s frankly more efficient. It`s marvelous. I don`t think he`s going to run on that. The Obama campaign went right after the Romney campaign on this today. As he`s getting face to face confrontation from teachers he`s meeting when he was he`s supposed to be rolling out his big education ideas as the Obama campaign goes after him on this, it will be interesting to see whether or not the Romney campaign sticks with education as something they`re going to run on and sticks especially with his idea that bigger class sizes are cool. And if they really do want to change the subject on education, if they want Mitt Romney to be running on this, and that`s what they tried to change it to this week, there are other big, new, heretofore, untried idea that they are putting forward -- the one that really does have a contrast with what President Obama has done, their other proposals besides larger class sizes is this from his education white paper, he wants to repeal the change President Obama made to student loans. They want to get rid of that. Mr. Romney will repeal what President Obama did. Do you want to know what that was, what President Obama did to student loans? This is one of those things that sounds like a finicky little change, but it turns out to make a lot of sense and save a lot of money. And if you`re a person who had a lot of federally supported student loans, this will be very, very familiar to you, right? For years, the government gave commercial banks guaranteed federal subsidies to make college loans to students. So, I mean, you think about the transaction of making a loan, right? You make a loan, when it gets paid back with interest, the bank makes money, right? So, they`d make -- with student loan, they`d make the money they`d normally make off interest, plus they get that guaranteed subsidy. And on top of that, the government assumed most of the risk for those loans so the banks didn`t really have to deal with the possibility that the loan wouldn`t get paid back. They were guaranteed. Sweet deal for the banks, right? What are they there for? They`re essentially getting guaranteed profits on these loans and no risk at all for the privilege of being the middleman on all our college loans, providing us no service whatsoever except being an extra layer of bureaucracy. So, why not cut out the middleman and let the taxpayers make the profit on these loans instead of the banks, since it`s we, the taxpayers, who are assuming the risk on them anyway. That is the change that President Obama signed into law, and the savings from us, from we the taxpayers getting those profits instead of the banks getting them. That savings of double grants for people who can`t afford go to college. That`s what Mitt Romney wants to repeal, that`s his other big idea. He wants us to take the money that`s going to college Pell Grants, take away that savings that we`ve been making and get rid of the savings. Instead, put that money back into guaranteed profits for the banks for providing us an unnecessary service and no risk to do so. That is his new idea and larger class sizes. So, Mitt Romney`s old playbook is talk about the economy whenever possible. Now that President Obama has shown himself to be really is eager to talk about the economy, whenever possible, Mitt Romney`s new playbook as of this week is change the subject to education. His big ideas on education as ruled out this week include bigger class sizes and putting inexplicable, for-profit, bureaucratic, providing those service, guaranteed profit, Wall Street middlemen back in the middle of student loans for some reason. That`s what he`s trying to change the subject to. Maybe we would be better off talking about dogs and driving. Joining us now is the host of MSNBC`s weekend morning show, "UP WITH CHRIS." He`s the author of the soon-to-be-published book, "Twilight of the Elites: America after Meritocracy." Mr. Chris Hayes, thank you for being here. CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: It`s good to be here. I have a sufficient normative haircut for you? MADDOW: If you don`t -- HAYES: I know. I know you crack down on that big time. MADDOW: Well, this is not the main point of our discussion here. HAYES: I know. MADDOW: The Republicans this week launched the sort of mini campaign. They sort of floated it, I think, to see how much Beltway pickup they get, that Joe Biden is a bad vice president because he`s unpredictable and he`s gaffe-prone. They didn`t say he had done anything wrong. We were just talking about his reputation for saying things that sound unscripted. Mitt Romney with the crazy hair video and dogs and driving thing and -- HAYES: I know. And what`s interesting because I was watching and I`m thinking, God, I haven`t seen either of those two things and I`m sitting doing prep for my show weekend. So, that`s the case in point, right? I mean, the gaffe is in the eye of the beholder. I mean, the gaffe is the thing that gets blown up. MADDOW: And you don`t look for it if there isn`t already a narrative about the guy being gaffe prone. And so, the narrative about Mitt Romney is that he`s this uber efficient, sort of robotic guy who would never say anything off message. He says off-message stuff all the time. HAYES: He said -- we`re getting totally off message, but let me just say -- he said in his interview with Mark Halperin, when Mark Halperin was talking to him about his budget plans, he said, well, God, no, we`re not going to take $1 trillion out of the budget in the first year, that would be massively contractionary, it`d probably throw us into depression. He conceded the entire theoretical framework of Keynesian stimulus in once sentence as a throwaway line in the Mark Halperin interview and no one said anything. That`s it. It completely invalidates everything about all of this -- MADDOW: I support the Paul Ryan budget to absolutely extract tens of billions of dollar dollars -- I mean, to take $1 trillion out of the economy and if I do that, it will destroy the economy. HAYES: Yes. And he conceded the fundamental premise that has been argued by everyone who`s watching this unfold about austerity and stimulus and he conceded in a one-line, throw away line with Mark Halperin. It was just like -- MADDOW: Yes. And it goes nowhere because we`re not looking for gaffes. HAYES: Yes, agreed. MADDOW: You know, it`s the same thing with unemployment, right? So, earlier this month, Mitt Romney said that having the unemployment rate to 8.1 percent was not something he was happy about. There`d be no cause for celebration until it was down to 4 percent. He also said with Mark Halperin that by the end of his first term, he`d like to have it by 6 percent, which is where the CBO projects it`s going to go anyway if we keep just doing what our current policies. So, it would be a failure for President Obama to not hit 4 percent, but Romney -- HAYES: He`s going to do it at 6 percent. MADDOW: Huge gaffe. HAYES: And keep in mind that several quarters in the last 15 years or something we`ve been at 4 percent unemployment? MADDOW: Yes. HAYES: That`s full employment, that`s like historically breaking every trend. MADDOW: It was in the year 2000. HAYES: Yes, and breaking every trend. MADDOW: Well, on this education policy, here we go -- the election is not going to be decided on the education policy, we all know that. Is it important that putting Wall Street profit back into the middle of student loans is the Republican proposal on this? HAYES: It is. There`s a few things that I think are interesting about this term. One, I think it`s really important for people to understand, the progressive victory that was won on that getting rid of the middleman was the really big one that kind of -- it happened at the same time as the Affordable Care Act was buried because the Affordable Care Act that just passed and everyone as talking about this. But this was the fight that we`ve been waiting since 1990s. Bill Clinton tried numerous times to do the same thing and failed. It was very hard thing to do to get rid of those middlemen because they`re sitting extracting rents by passing money between each other. And as you laid out there, this is the opposite of the free market, right? This entire thing is based on a subsidy of risk and debt the government is taking on, right? So, there`s like no principled ideological conservative argument to have a Wall Street bank in the middle of this constructive market. There is no -- it`s simply is paying off -- MADDOW: They`re there for the purpose of collecting our money. HAYES: Exactly. There`s no reason, and it was good policy and it was a big victory. Ands I think the fact that they thought they could sneak this past and not get rapped for it is indicative of what they think people are paying and not paying attention to. I think a lot of the Romney strategy is we can propose policies that are absolutely going to be very good for the 1 percent while talking about how terrible it is that there`s amounts of unemployment and sound sympathetic to the plight of people and put out web videos that show people unemployed, and we can pull off this fundamental bait and switch. And the second thing I think it`s interesting about this turn to education is, it is strategically a choice by them to make their pivot to the middle after the primary. This is the issue -- remember George W. Bush did this very effectively in 2000. It was education, the issue that made him a compassionate conservative, education that made him part, that was bipartisan and centrist and he worked with Ted Kennedy when he got into office with No Child Left Behind Act. It`s clear that they think this is an issue that signals to people, I`m not a scary right winger. And yet when you look at the substance of what they`re proposing, it`s scary right wing stuff. MADDOW: Right. Let`s make sure we get back to a guaranteed taxpayer subsidized payday for Wall Street in the middle of trying to do education. Chris Hayes, the host of "MSNBC`s" weekend morning show, "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES," new book, "Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy" comes out on June 12th. Chris, it is even more fun having you here on the set tonight than it was getting drunk with you in that bar last night. HAYES: That was super fun. MADDOW: I`m sorry you couldn`t get a blazer. HAYES: I couldn`t quite get to a blazer. MADDOW: From the jail. Yes, it was a big night , epic, actually. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The thing about rights, you`re not supposed to vote on them. That`s why they`re called rights. When you do put rights up for a vote, when you put minority rights up for a vote, the majority tends to vote against them. On the issue of marriage equality, those rights have been put up to a statewide vote 34 times in the last 15 years and they have lost 33 out of 34 times. The one time gay rights didn`t lose at the ballot box was one year in Arizona, Arizona voted on it again two years later and it lost. The state banned same sex marriage in the second vote. So, there is no state in the Union, none, liberal, conservative, in between, no state in which marriage rights have been upheld in a vote. Minority rights do not fare well at the ballot box. Something kind of amazing. It just happened in the great state of Maryland. In Maryland, the state legislature there passed same sex marriage rights, giving gay couples the legal right to get married starting January 1st of next year. But before that can happen, opponents to the new law are expected to gather enough signatures to get a referendum on the law put on the ballot in November. And remember, that`s not good news if you support marriage equality because no state has ever said yes to same sex marriage at the ballot box. Well, shortly after Maryland`s governor signed this law in early March, PPP did a poll on the state to see whether people would vote for or against the marriage law if it does go to a referendum. And the results were actually pretty good for marriage equality supporters. A majority of people in Maryland supported the law. Same sex marriage rights were ahead by eight points. That was in March. They just redid that same poll a few days ago, all of a sudden in Maryland, wow, something has happened. Now, same sex marriage rights are winning not by eight points in Maryland, but by 20 points. That is a 12 point swing. What happened? Here`s what happened. One large and very influential voting bloc in the state of Maryland, the bloc that makes up nearly 30 percent of the population in that state over the course of the last two months went through a massive transformation on this issue. African-American voters in Maryland just a couple months ago in that first poll in March were against same sex marriage rights in their state by 17 points. Now, they are for same sex marriage rights by 19 points, same poll. That is a 36 point swing in two months. Nothing swings 36 points in two months in American public opinion. Nothing. This just does not happen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: When the president came out for marriage equality, everybody knew it was important and historic but nobody really knew what it`s practical effect was going to be. That is part of what made it important, that he made this pronouncement without any political certainty what would happen as a result. That is part of why it was a big deal. Now, we are starting to find out what the results was of that pronouncement. It`s not counting up who agreed with him already and who disagreed with him already and how this is going to change their opinion and their likelihood to vote. He is changing people`s minds. What this means for the country yet we do not know. But in the state of Maryland, we can count overtly how much of a quantitative difference that decision by the president has just made. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) MADDOW: OK. So, this doesn`t always happen in New York, Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin do not frequently get off a warship floating in the Hudson and they`re dressed white and sing excitedly about what a wonderful town this is. They did it once in 1949 and frankly, in New York, we are still smitten but it hasn`t happened since. However, once a year, something kind of like it does happen in New York City. It is hard not to be smitten every time. This year, it is happening right now. It is even better than it usually is, because this year, we have added something to the mix. We added something to the mix we stole from the Nazis. And if stealing stuff from Nazis doesn`t make you happy, you need a vacation. What we stole from the Nazis and why it is so awesome, coming up on the best new thing in the world today. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In the 2010 elections, the elections that gave us Republican House Speaker John Boehner instead of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, there was one chart more than any other that pretty much summed up what happened on election day and why. These were the heavyweights when it came to outside spending that election cycle. These were the 10 groups that spent the most money on that election that year. Six of the 10 groups spent big-time on the right. And they were led by the corporate-funded U.S. Chamber of Commerce, far and away the biggest spender that year. Almost all the groups spending on behalf of Republicans in 2010 were corporate-funded groups like that, business groups. The only major spenders on be half of Democrats that year were union, that was it. And they only made up 30 of the top 10 spenders. So, yes, one by one individual campaign donations by normal humans are nice things. But when you`re talking big money in politics, the stuff that adds up really fast and makes a determinative difference, you either have to be a politically motivated billionaire or you need to be an organization. Big money in politics comes from corporations who disproportionately support Republicans and from unions who disproportionately support Democrats, from organizations. Republican-supporting corporations are totally dominant, right? Their only competition supporting Democrats are unions. And that means strategically, if you are somehow able to get rid of unions, to take them out of the mix, then you are able to get rid of the Democratic Party`s ability to compete in the big money part of elections. The only thing you have left is that corporations spending hand over fist for Republicans and they`ll win every election every time. Over the last half a century, union membership has plummeted across the country. It`s gone from about 39 percent of salaried employees in the `50s, to less than 12 percent now. But even as union membership has waned, there is one place where it`s still going strong. Most of the people who are in unions these days are public sector unions. The unions that represent people work for things like state and local governments. Private sector unions have taken a beating over the last few decades but public sector ones are still doing okay. And so, Republican legislatures all across the country have all gotten religion, all at the same time about the importance of killing off public sector unions. The most high profile among them, of course, is Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, with a stroke of a pen wiped out 50 years of union rights in the state of Wisconsin. Wisconsin was the first state of the country to recognize union rights for employees where they were born, but Scott Walker got rid of them. Scott Walker did not campaign on getting rid of those rights but once he got elected, he said he had to, he said he had to kill union rights in Wisconsin to save the state`s budgets. When the unions said yes to all the financial concessions that he asked for and he still wanted to kill them off, it became clear that it wasn`t about money, it was not about the budget. He wanted to get rid of union rights in order to get rid of unions all together. If you get rid of unions all together there is no one funding the other side. There will be no one funding Democrats when business funds Republicans. You get rid of union rights, you thereby get rid of unions, you thereby and game the whole state, so Democrats cannot compete in the big money part of elections ever again. Pull that off and Wisconsin didn`t just go all red in 2010, Wisconsin will be all Republican, all red from here on out permanently. Democrats will never recover. Don`t take my word for it, take his. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DIANE HENDRIKS: Any chance we`ll ever get to be a completely red state and work on these unions? GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: Oh, yes. HENDRIKS: And become a right to work? What can we do to help you? WALKER: We`re going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill. The first step is we`re going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: How did we become a completely red state? The first step is public employee unions, and divide and conquer. That`s what Scott Walker calls it, divide and conquer. Killing the union is the strategy for turning Wisconsin red not just for now but for generations to come in an irreparable way. This is about partisan politics. It is about destroying Democrats` chances of competing with Republicans. It`s about eliminating the only source of support for Democrats that can compete with the Republicans corporate support. It`s not about some year`s budget, it`s not even about jobs. Since he wiped away union rights in Wisconsin, Scott Walker has wrapped up the worst jobs record in the entire country. It is not about jobs. It is not about the budget. It is about making Wisconsin permanently Republican. That is what this is about. And Republicans are trying this everywhere. I mean, in Ohio, they were able to do a recall not of the governor but of the law stripping union rights that the Republicans passed. That law when it got put up for a recall got recalled by more than 20 points in November. In Wisconsin, they`re not recalling the law. They`re going to recall the governor, a recall that happens in less than two weeks. And because this is about money and politics and how badly the corporate-funded Republican side wants the chance to run unopposed from here on out forever, it will not surprise you to hear that the Scott Walker side is out-raising the Democratic side more than 25-1 -- 25-1 against the Democrats, in this recall election that will essentially decide if Democrats ever get to really compete with Republicans in elections again. If I were the Republicans, I`d spend 100-1. I`d spent 1,000-1 for a chance at that. Are you kidding? That`s the brass ring. And so far, their spending appears to be working, even though the polls are very, very close. The latest polling, I think this is important, shows that all the Republican ad spending has had an effect. Ninety-one percent of Republican voters in Wisconsin say they are absolutely certain to vote on June 5th. Only 83 percent of Democrats and independents say the same thing. That`s what advertising. That`s what that kind of money does. This race in Wisconsin is the most important race before the presidential election, June 5th. Republicans think they`ve got it in the bag. And if they do, they are on their way to a permanent structural advantage over the Democratic Party for which there is no repair. There is no way to undo it. And that will affect every race, in every partisan election, on every ballot from the race for do dogcatcher on up to the race for president. Republicans think they have it in the bag. It is less than two weeks to the vote in Wisconsin. And at this point, the Democrats should be fighting for this like the existence of their party depends on it because it does. Joining us now is Wisconsin State Senator Jon Erpenbach. Senator Erpenbach, it`s nice to see you again. Thank you for being here. STATE SEN. JON ERPENBACH (D), WISCONSIN: Thank you, Rachel. How are you? MADDOW: I`m good. I`m fired up. We are less than two weeks away from the recall election in Wisconsin. What can -- what can you tell us about what it looks like on the ground there in terms from organization? From a distance, all we can see is 25-1, the Republicans outspending Democrats. What`s it look like from up close? ERPENBACH: Well, let me tell you what that 25-1 gets you. About two months ago, Scott Walker was 50 percent in the polls. Thirty million dollar or $40 million later, Scott Walker is about 50 percent in the polling. So, the money isn`t really doing a lot, aside from what you pointed out that`s exciting the Republican base. What`s going on in the ground of Wisconsin right now is Obama for America campaign, the national -- the DNC has come in with money. Everybody is coordinating together, working really hard to get out the vote. We know as Democrats the only way to beat the governor is to get out the vote. We feel very good about what we have in place. And there`s no doubt, I have been to rallies all over the state. I was in one in Madison the other day. I`ve been all over the state -- north, south, east, west, all Democrats are really getting fired up. They know what`s at stake here. MADDOW: In terms of the Democratic Party and how seriously they`re taking this race. Obviously, you`ve been right at the heart of this from the very beginning, Tom Barrett, who is the Democratic candidate right now, right in it this right from the beginning. Everybody who`s talking about this on TV is fully invested in this. Are Democrats around the country taking Wisconsin as seriously as you can tell I think they should? Are you -- do you feel supported in a way -- I mean, Scott Walker on the right is a cause celebre for Republicans coast- to-coast. ERPENBACH: Well, it`s more-or-less Scott Walker incorporated. That`s where all the money is coming for him. Obviously, if you take a look at the amount of money that the governor has raised compared to, let`s say, the state of Wisconsin, where he`s the governor, as opposed to the rest of the country, a lot of his money is coming from out of the state. As far as Democrats are concerned, the DNC has come in, they`ve given the party about $1.4 million. And again, although -- about 60 Obama for American offices, along with another 30 or 40 offices in the state of Wisconsin. So, we`re getting up to about 100 offices throughout the state who are going to coordinate and get the vote out and do all sorts of things like that. So, I feel really good about that. If people, Democrats around the country really want to help out, they can go to, they can chip in. But right, Rachel, a lot of what`s going on in here in Wisconsin bodes either good or bad for the country depending what happens here on June 5th. MADDOW: Jon, in any normal campaign, not too blunt about it, but anybody outspent 25-1 in a normal campaign loses the election. And you guys -- I mean, I hear what you`re saying about getting out the vote effort and ramping up that`s happened on this tight time frame you had after the primary. Do you feel like your side has a Hail Mary? Do you have a patented underdog plan to try to pull this out or is it just sticking to fundamentals this point and counting on your ground game? ERPENBACH: Well, it`s sticking to the fundamentals. But we`re honestly not that far behind, as I said. Governor Walker is at 50 percent in just about every poll that you take look at. And keep in mind, that`s $30 million to $40 million ago he was at 50 percent. He hasn`t moved. I got to believe that Governor Walker has probably reached as high as he can and has nowhere but to fall. At the same time, Tom Barrett, in the latest polls, is at 48 percent. So, again, it gets down to the ground game, it gets down to every single Democrat who doesn`t like what Governor Walker is doing here in state of Wisconsin to get out and vote on June 5th. And, again, we have plans in place to do that. You can`t go anywhere, in fact, you can`t even have a thought to yourself without it being some sort of a campaign message, June 5th, June 5th, get out and vote. So, the Democrats again are going to rally around that. Keep in mind, we understand what Governor Walker has done to Wisconsin and we understand what Governor Walker intends to do to Wisconsin if he gets to finish out his term. So, this race is that important. MADDOW: Wisconsin State Senator Jon Erpenbach -- thanks very much for talking with us tonight, sir. Good luck next week. I appreciate your time. ERPENBACH: All right. Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: Senator Erpenbach mentioned there the Web site that you can visit. Can we go back for a second? The senator mentioned the Web site there that you can visit to donate to the Tom Barrett side of the election. I should mention also that if you would like to donate to the Governor Walker side of the election, it`s, in the interest of giving you both Web sites. Now, you have them both. All right. Best new thing in the world is coming up, now with 100 percent more stuff stolen from Nazis. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Waterloo, New York -- as the city will tell you on its home page on the Internet machine -- is the birthplace of Memorial Day. Memorial Day used to be called Decoration Day. It dates back to the Civil War, the idea of Decoration Day was to decorate the graves of those killed in the war with wreathes and flags and flowers. After World War I, Memorial Day was expanded to honor all American veterans, which is what we will be doing this Memorial Day this upcoming Monday. But just as men and women needed the way to mourn the dead and honor the surviving veterans after the Civil War and after World War I, American civilians now are finding that we, too, need some public way to honor the veterans of our post-9/11 wars, now that veterans have returned from the war in Iraq and are just barely now starting the process of winding down the war in Afghanistan. To mark the end of the Iraq War, a growing handful of American cities have been hosting welcome home parades. This was the first one in St. Louis in January. Since then, there have been welcome home parades organized by civilians in Houston, in Tucson, in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in Melbourne, Florida. This past Saturday, two more cities threw parades to welcome home and thank their veterans. In Richmond, Virginia, the parade snaked along a mile-long route to the city`s World War I memorial. Organizers report, there were tens of thousands of people in attendance. The parade ended at a resource village of state agencies and organizations offering vets things like legal advice and career services. The grand marshal of the parade was retired Colonel Wesley Fox, who received the Medal of Honor for his service during Vietnam. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was there. His district includes part of Richmond. So was the mayor of Richmond, Dwight Jones. And on same day, on Saturday, in Kansas City, Missouri, people turned out for that city`s welcome home parade. The mayor in the city council were among those on hand, to celebrate and thank the post-9/11 veterans. The mayor declared welcome home heroes day in Kansas City. Like Richmond, the Kansas City veterans parade ended at a resource village that connected veterans to outreach and support organizations. Richmond, Virginia, Kansas City, Missouri, just the latest example of civilians figuring out how they and their cities want to mark the end of the Iraq war, to say thank you and welcome home to those who served. This upcoming Monday is not just a day off, it`s the first Memorial Day since the end of the war. On tomorrow`s show, we`re going to have more on exactly what that means this year, in Washington and around the country. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Best new thing in the world. This is the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle. It`s what they call tall ships. Tall ships is just a name that they gave to big, traditionally rigged ships that are powered by the evil, communist, green energy source known as wind. Ginormous sailing ships. The Coast Guard Cutter Eagle normally lives at the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut. But his week, it is in New York as part of Fleet Week. Fleet Week is when the Navy, and the Marines, and the Coast Guard, all come to New York City. They parade their ships up through the Verrazano Narrows and up the Hudson River. And all week-long, if you happen to find yourself in a New York City bar, there`s a pretty good chance you are going to end up buying a beer for a stranger who`s wearing some really nice white pants. This year, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the war of 1812, do the math, Fleet Week includes not just all the modern warships, but also 17 massive restored tall ships, these giant sailing vessels, including the Eagle which led the parade of warships into New York Harbor this year. The Eagle gets to do this because it`s known as America`s tall ship. It`s the largest tall ship that flies the stars and stripes. But here`s the thing -- even though it is America`s tall ship, the Eagle has not always been all that American. The ship used to be called the Segelschulschiff Horst Wessel. Say that three times fast. The SS Horst Wessel was originally commissioned in Nazi Germany and named after a storm trooper who died in a street brawl. Adolf Hitler was present for her original launch in 1936. She was used to train cadets in the German navy. The reason we`ve got this ship now is because after World War II, we took her, as a war prize, renamed her the Eagle and now she serves as an international goodwill ambassador for the United States, as a training too for the Coast Guard Academy cadets, and as a giant mizzenmasted square rigged, neener-neener to the Nazis. Nice. The best new thing in the world today. She is -- by the way, if you`re driving to New York City or you`re there already, that ship is docked at Pier 90 on 47 Street, if you want to go see her. You could just walk right up and take a look. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Thanks for being with us tonight. Have a good one. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END