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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/12/13

Guests: Noam Scheiber, Nancy Northup

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Sixty-seven thousand dollars -- $67,000 the latest data available from the Census Bureau says that that is about the median net worth for a typical American household. So, $67,000, that`s the middle. The fact that it`s the median means that there`s an equal number of households that are worth more than that and an equal number of households that are worth less than that, the medium net worth for an American household. The median net worth for an American member of the house, is that number plus $1 million, almost exactly. Those are the numbers if you round to the nearest thousand. These are the exact numbers. Now, this is from the U.S. Census for the typical household. You see, we just round it to the nearest thousand there. And the bottom number there, that`s from the Center for Responsive Politics. That`s the median net worth for this freshman class of members of Congress. It`s weird, right? It`s almost uncanny, there`s almost exactly a $1 million increment in net worth between the wealth of Americans and the wealth of American representatives in Congress. Congress is really rich compared to the rest of the country. It has been that way for a long time. And the disparity has been getting worse for a long time. Between 1984 and 2009, the wealth of an average family actually declined slightly. But the median net worth of a member of Congress, more than doubled over that time. And Congress not only keeps getting richer over time, they`re now getting richer faster. The median net worth of incoming members of Congress, that $1,066,000, that net worth for the freshman class is even richer than Congress already was when they got there. They made Congress richer by getting there. And you know what? Good for them, there`s nothing wrong with people having lots of money, right? I mean, biblically, maybe, right? But in terms of us making value judgments about what that says be whether people are good representatives, that`s just a fact of Congress. I do think, though, it is an underappreciated fact about our democracy, that we essentially choose from among our millionaires who will be our representatives in Washington. That`s essentially the pool that we choose from. And for some of the other truly epically rich members of Congress, once you know how epically rich they are, it is hard to think about whether or not that plays into the decisions they make in Congress. So, take for example, the nomination of Jeh Johnson, to be the new secretary of homeland security for our country. President Obama has nominated him. He`s going to have his confirmation in the Senate tomorrow. Jeh Johnson is a former federal prosecutor. He was general counsel for the United States Air Force. For the past four years, he was the general counsel of the Pentagon, of the whole Defense Department. Well, today, Congressman Michael McCaul, Republican congressman from Texas, went on a TV show called "Fox and Friends" and denounced Jeh Johnson`s nomination ahead of that confirmation hearing. He didn`t just say that he didn`t want Jeh Johnson essentially as chairman of homeland security. He called him a name. He called him a political hack. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here are some great people out there that are apolitical, for example like our next guest, Ray Kelly. He didn`t go there. He goes for Jeh Johnson, a lawyer. REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R), TEXAS: I`m sorry, you called him what? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lawyer. MCCAUL: Yes. I mean, look, this guy is the president`s lawyer. He is kind of the president`s lawyer, and I don`t want to put a political hack in that position. I want someone who -- (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Actually, he`s the Defense Department general counsel. He didn`t call him a political hack. That`s Michael McCaul, Republican congressman from Texas saying that if you are the general counsel of the Air Force and the general counsel of the Pentagon, that`s the same thing as you being the president`s lawyer, you`re a political hack, who`s obviously unqualified for a national security job. And, you know, maybe it does not matter in this case, maybe it does not affect Congressman McCaul`s perspective that he appears to be the richer person in all of Congress. Once you know that about him, though, it`s hard not to keep that in mind when you see him in action, when you see him in this case inveighing against the guy and calling him a hack, and saying essentially that he hasn`t earned what he`s got. Michael McCaul is the richest member of Congress because he married a person who is going to inherit the Clear Channel fortune. His wife`s father founded Clear Channel. Michael McCaul married his wife and because of that and their shared assets, he is worth an estimated half billion dollars, more than anybody else in Congress. Does that affect his views about who has earned their way and who hasn`t earned their way? And there`s guys like Fred Upton. Fred Upton just had delivered to his office back in Michigan, 91 bags of apples grown by a local farmer in his congressional district in Michigan. The local farmer pleading with Fred Upton, to please support immigration reform because he sees it as key to the survivability of his farm. I don`t know if Fred Upton is ever going to support immigration reform. But if you are making a prediction about that, it may help you to know about Fred Upton that he is the inheritor of the Whirlpool fortune. Fred Upton`s grandfather founded Whirlpool, you know like washer dries and stuff. That`s kind of the biographical for lots and lots and lots of members of Congress. Members of Congress you like, and members of Congress you don`t like. It crops up all the time. Jim Sensenbrenner, the congressman from Wisconsin, he turned up this week in a really interesting story about whether there`s any hope of saving the Voting Rights Act through action by Congress. It turns out Jim Sensenbrenner may be the best hope that there is for any Republican leadership on reinstating the bones of the Voting Rights Act, after the Supreme Court tore it down this summer. Also, Jim Sensenbrenner`s great grandfather invented Kotex. He`s the heir of the sanitary fortune of America. But that`s -- behind all these members of Congress, behind more of them that you would think, that`s kind of the story of Congress -- Democratic and Republican, Senate and House, members of Congress you like, members of Congress you don`t like, ones doing things you like, ones doing things you don`t like, turns out they`re like -- they`re all heirs to some fortune or married to some heir to some fortune. Our Congress is very, very rich and getting richer all the time. Like them or hate them, while the average American is not getting richer, the average member of Congress really is getting richer, and that`s happening faster and faster all the time right now. And whether or not it is related, right now, the average American`s view of the average member of Congress is the worst it has ever been in the history of asking people that question. The Gallup organization today released its polling data on the American public`s view of how Congress is doing in terms of handling it`s job, the number of Americans who say, yes, they like the way Congress is doing its job right now is down to -- what`s that tiny little number down there, oh, that`s a single -- yes, that`s nine. Nine percent, the lowest number ever recorded in Gallup`s four decades of asking this question of the American people. Polling numbers for Congress have never been worse. They got really, really bad during the government shutdown last month, not only have they not recovered since then, they in fact have continued to drop, it has never, ever, ever been this bad. At the same time, though, at the same time that Gallup released that data, they also just released data that might help our Richie Rich Congress out of the mess they`re in with the American people hating them so much because it turns out there is one thing that Congress could do, that the president has in fact asked Congress to do, that Senate Democrats are already working on that they say could be done by Thanksgiving if Congress put their mind to it. It would make Democrats happy, turns out it would make independents happy, turns out it would make Republicans happy. It is just about the most popular thing that congress could conceivably do and it`s totally logistically in reach for them to do it right now, right away. Look at this support. Nothing gets support like this. Among Democrats, 91 percent. Among Republicans, it`s 58 percent. Among independents, 76 percent. Overall more than three-quarters of Americans are in favor of raising the minimum wage. Raising the minimum wage is more popular than sunshine. It`s more popular that extra cheese. It`s more popular than insert funny hyperbolic statement here. Among Democrats and independents and Republicans, when you ask regular Americans if they like this idea, it is wildly popular. And actually popularity is going up. When New Jersey voters went to the polls last week, they re-elected their Governor Chris Christie by a 22-point margin, but they also overturned their governor`s veto of a rise in the state minimum wage. They voted on it even after Christie vetoed it. New Jersey`s going to go from a $7.25 federal minimum wage to a dollar more than that. Plus, it`s going to be scheduled to go up with inflation. No thanks to Chris Christie, the people of New Jersey decided that on their own. So, Gallup numbers to raise the minimum wage, that raises the minimum wage to $9 an hour, which is what President Obama proposed in the State of the Union back in February. Democrats in the Senate say they are right now moving on a $10 minimum wage, and they say they certainly plan a vote on it by the end of the year. They may even be able to get it done by the end of this month. Congress has not voted to raise the minimum wage since 2007. But the fact that they did it then, and they did it all the other times that they raised it since it was first established in 1938 at 25 cents an hour, all of those examples of having raised it in the past gives us a lot of evidence, gives us tons of empirical evidence about what happens when we race the minimum wage. We know what happens when we do this. It turns out, when you raise the minimum wage, people who are working for minimum wage get paid more money, and that`s pretty much it. That`s basically the impact of raising the minimum wage. Earlier this year, there was a comprehensive meta analysis, a study of studies on the minimum wage, the impact of raising the minimum wage. That came out. And it graphs, what all those other studies have found to be the impact of the minimum wage when we had raised it in all sorts of jurisdictions across the country. This is the graph they came up with in terms of when you look at all of the studies of the impact of raising minimum wage, this is basically where they come out. Do you want to know where that spike is there? Just look that digit right before. Zero, this is the pile of studies, this is the overall meta impact of what studies say the impact is of raising the minimum wage. This is the impact of employment prospects when you raise the minimum wage. Zero effect on employment prospect. The University of Chicago put out another big meta survey of economic experts asking whether or not they agreed with the statement that racing the minimum wage on balance was a good thing to do for people at the bottom end of the economic spectrum, and economists, again, surveyed by the University of Chicago say, yes, this would be a good idea. This would work, this is a good idea. This is not like trying to invent a time traveling teleportation probe to put people on Jupiter or something. This is something that has been done over and over again. It`s been incrementally over and over and over again, in all sorts of different jurisdictions, federally and across the country starting in the Great Depression. We have done it to an effect that is empirically observable, studied and known. We know what happens when you raise the minimum wage, people at the bottom of the economic spectrum do better and economic inequality is lessen. It is a wildly popular policy. Even Republican voters like the idea of doing this. Democrats in Congress love the idea of doing this. The president wants to do this. But Republicans in Congress at least so far are standing against it. Even just in the Senate, senators like Rand Paul and Marco Rubio and Lamar Alexander, all just in the last few months have said, not just that the minimum wage shouldn`t be raised, but maybe the minimum wage should not exist at all. Maybe the minimum wage should be zero. Republican voters not only want the minimum wage to exist, they want to raise it. Just like all the other voters want to raise it. It is really an overwhelmingly popular thing that Democrats support and Republican politicians don`t, despite their own voters. And that is the definition of political opportunity. If your side supports something that is wildly popular, and the other side is against it, that is a political opportunity. If you support something that is so popular that even the voters from the other parties are with you on it and they`re against their own politicians on it. That is a political opportunity. On paper, this is a simple thing. But it is also the greater wedge issue that has ever been invented in the history of Democratic politics. Democrats should be able to use this as an issue to cleave a majority of Republican voters away from their own politicians. Why haven`t they`ve been able to do that, and what would it take for them to do it. Joining us now is Noam Scheiber. He`s senior editor for "The New Republic." He`s the author of the cover story in the latest issue, which is called "Hillary`s Nightmare: A Democratic Party that Realizes Its Soul Lies with Elizabeth Warren Instead." Mr. Scheiber, thanks very much being here. NOAM SCHEIBER, THE NEW REPUBLIC: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: You have been looking at the prospects of Elizabeth Warren`s political future as a sort of lens in a way for looking economic populism and issues about class and money within the Democratic Party, whether that is the future of the Democratic Party`s politics. What`s your conclusion broadly speaking? SCHEIBER: Yes, no question. I mean, any way you slice the data, it`s very hard to not see this trend toward populism in the party. If you look at, you know, Gallup -- you mentioned a Gallup survey, they have done a number of surveys tracking this over the years. Before the crisis, Democrats suspicions of the size and influence of corporations, about half of Democrats were kind of suspicious, now, it`s more like 80 percent. If you look at their views on banks and what they think about the banking sector, the number of Democrats who feel very negatively toward big banks has more than quintupled since before the crisis. Their views on regulation, this comes from actually a few surveys -- the support for government regulation of business has increased by roughly 17 points since before the crisis. I mean, you go down the list and it`s clear that the orientation is increasingly populist direction. MADDOW: And, you know, you look at Elizabeth Warren as maybe the standard bearer or a symbol of this in Democratic politics. Obviously, she`s a brand-new senator and nobody really knows where she`s going in the party. But I feel like it`s not Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are sort of temples of this in the Republican Party. It`s Sherrod Brown, it`s Jeff Merkley. It`s Ron Wyden. It`s a lot of senators and a lot of sort of, I think, I guess it would consider them to be Democratic A-listers who line up more on that side than the traditional sort of DLC centrist, pro-Wall Street Democratic past. Who championed the other side of it, though? Is it Hillary Clinton? And if so, who else? SCHEIBER: Well, you know, it remains to be seen. I mean, Hillary has obviously has a strong record fighting for kind of, you know, populist economic issues in certain respects. I mean, universal health care in the `92 campaign is a very sort of populist position. But, you know, there`s no question that the Clintons have been close to a number of Wall Street alumni over the years, Robert Rubin being the most famous example. But, you know, the sort of intellectual descendants of Rubin continue to be close to the Clintons to this day. You know, then you have the kind of people that you would expect, people who`s on states, you know, the financial sector is very strong, whether it`s Delaware, and the senator like Tom Carper, where the credit card industry is very strong, or states like, you know, South Dakota where a lot of banks are located. You know, so it ends up being sort of the old story, the politics is local, right? I think that`s where we see it. But it`s interesting, this piece about Elizabeth Warren. I talk to Connecticut senator, Chris Murphy, who was also elected in 2012 with Elizabeth Warren. I asked him, how has this changed within the Democratic caucus in the last two years. You know, just since 2008, say, and he told me he thought that in 2008, before the crisis, the caucus was split roughly evenly between Wall Street skeptics and Wall Street sympathizers, now he thinks it`s more like 2/3, 1/3 -- 2/3 skeptics and 1/3 sort of sympathetic. MADDOW: Noam, do you see on this issue of the minimum wage, we do see Senate Democrats lead by Tom Harkin, but with a lot of support and with support from the White House, pushing on this right now, it`s sort of going to be the last thing that they push on between now and Thanksgiving, maybe, they`re going to do this right away, is this sort of a test for both the Democratic side of the aisle, but also to see whether or not this could work as a wedge on the Republicans? SCHEIBER: No, I think no question, I mean you`re absolutely right, the polling suggests that rank and file Republicans are exactly where most Democrats are. And I really is a couple of holdouts, one of which is the restaurant industry, which is very powerful on the Republican side in Congress, I think something like 50 percent, 60 percent of minimum wage workers work in the restaurant industry. So, it`s understandable why they`re so agitated about this. And then you have some kind of economic libertarians, like a Rand Paul, if you come at this sort of pure ideological perspective, I guess. But the that is not a -- even close to a majority opinion in the Republican Party, much less the entire country. So I think you`re right, it`s absolutely a main stream issue and these other questions are very much mainstream as well. I mean, if you look at regulation of Wall Street, pollster Celinda Lake does polling on support for regulations of the financial sector. That`s gone from something like 70 percent immediately after the crisis, to like 80 percent now. So, these are very kind of ecumenical issues. They`re not by any means restricted to Democratic voters. MADDOW: Noam Scheiber, senior editor for "The New Republic" and author of their cover story, "Hillary`s Nightmare", which has tongues wagging these days. Noam, thanks very much. Nice to have you here. SCHEIBER: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: I will say -- this issue about economic populism, it is one of the things that sort of the Beltway and the punditocracy will always pooh-pooh the issue, and always say, oh, Democrats shouldn`t go there, they`ll scare the children. Every time Democrats do go there, they tend to win, whether it`s a ballot initiative on something like a minimum wage, whether it`s crusading on something like regulating Wall Street, like Elizabeth Warren did and then ousted an incumbent senator by eight points. I mean, when Democrats work this stuff, it generally wins with them and the only thing you can tell it`s coming is how loud the Beltway squawks that it`s going to fail every time. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: It was the evening in the eastern U.S. and it was early afternoon today in Hawaii when this happened. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nineteen ayes, four noes and no excuse. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senate Bill 1, House draft 1 passes final reading. Madam clerk? (CHEERS) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Hawaii`s same-sex marriage bill being passed, 19 votes to 4 by the Hawaii state Senate. That bill will now go to the Democratic governor of Hawaii and he will sign it tomorrow and then it will be legal in Hawaii for same-sex couples to marry each other if they want to. For same-sex marriage opponents, some of whom you heard booing there at the vote count, it was not their day in Hawaii. They did not prevail. But for same-sex couples and also for Hawaii`s caterers and florists and wedding photographers, well, there was much rejoicing. Aloha, here come the brides. Hawaii, tomorrow, will become the 15th American state, plus the District of Columbia in which there is marriage equality. Illinois passed its marriage equality law last week and the governor there is going to make Illinois the 16th state to OK same-sex marriage. If you had to characterize its direction right now, I think it would be fair to say that same-sex marriage rights are advancing, and rapidly, and they are not just legally advancing, they are advancing in broad terms. The trends make it look like it`s even higher now, but as of this summer, a clear majority of Americans favored marriage equality for the whole country. Among moderates, it`s by 63 percent. Among independent voters, it was 53 percent. Among women, it`s 56 percent. Among young people of voting age, it`s 69 percent in favor. That`s where the country is at right now on this issue, and it`s getting more so all the time. Since the Supreme Court`s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act this summer, more and more states have moved toward equalizing their marriage laws. And when that happens inside a state, the sky tends not to fall. And therefore, the arguments about how terrible same-sex marriage would be for that state, tend to hold even less sway than they might have held before once people could see what it was really like. As public opinion goes, this is a public opinion train that has left the station. But, among the national tier Republican politicians, among even national tier Republican politicians whose future prospects are supposedly staked on their crossover appeal and their electability, there is not a single Republican among them right now who isn`t staunchly opposed to letting gay people get married. Even if it came to the rights and the feelings and the families of their own children, every single one of them is against it right now, all of them. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: If my kids came to me and said they were gay, I would grab them and hug them and tell them I love them -- just like I would do with any of my children who came to me with news that they wanted to me to give me that they thought were important enough to open themselves up in that way. But what I would also tell them is that dad believes that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that`s my position. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s his position, and it`s an interesting thing, as it becomes more and more clear that the country has already made its decision on equal rights for gay people, including on marriage. It becomes more and more clear, that there`s a big divided here, right? It`s like on the minimum wage. There`s no one among the real contenders for national office who agrees where the country is going on this. When the Boy Scouts decided to change their membership policy to stop banning gay people from joining, anti-gay conservatives decided they were going to form an alternative to the Boy Scouts, an alternative group that would pledge to keep out the gays. They billed themselves as the Boy Scouts for real men. The Supreme Court stuck down the anti- gay marriage ban this summer, lots of social conservatives said they were upset with the ruling, but it took somebody as out there as the guy from the Jerry Falwell university law school to say that that ruling was going to start a second American civil war, it was going to start a revolution. Well, this weekend, Republican Senator Marco Rubio is headlining a dinner with those two guys I just described, with the guy who founded the no gays allowed alternative to the Boy Scouts, a and the guy who wants a new revolutionary war, or a new civil war maybe, in any case, he wants a full blown American war because of the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. Senator Marco Rubio is appearing with them this weekend at an antigay event in Florida. He`s the keynote speaker. Senator Marco Rubio, like Governor Chris Christie, these guys are supposed to be the Republican Party`s way out of the Democratic prism that the Republican Party is in, where the party`s core policy ideas put themselves at odds with not only most of the electorate, but with specifically the fastest growing parts of the electorate. But every single one of these guys, Marco Rubio included, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, all the rest of them, all of them are in lock step with the Mike Huckabees and Pat Robertsons on the gay rights issue. So, it`s Rubio, it`s Christie, it`s Paul Ryan, it`s Scott Walker, it`s every single other Republican national or pseudo national figure who wants to be considered a possibility for 2016 for the Republican Party, because they`re supposedly a young fresh face who can appeal to the kids. Not a single one of them have broken rank on this issue. And, boy, do the kids disagree with them on this issue. Soon, there will be 16 states in the District of Columbia, where marriage equality is the law of the land. Most Republican conventional wisdom includes the idea now to having to broaden the party`s appeal beyond its base of very, very conservative voters. Voters` views of same-sex marriage rights are a matter of public record right now. But if national Republican hopefuls don`t see the polling, don`t see which way this is going, there will certainly be competing national candidates who do see, and they will win while these guys lose. Place your bets. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The United States Supreme Court did something today that might be unexpectedly far-reachings. It turns out it springs directly from what one of my high school teachers had to do for me in 1990 to make me stop cutting class. That story, which comes with comic books, is coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Last year, the international genius cartoonist, Garry Trudeau, the guy who writes "Doonesbury," he launched a comic series on Republican legislators and governors forcing women to have vaginal ultrasounds that they did not want. "On behalf of Governor Rick Perry, may I welcome you to your compulsory trance vaginal exam." So, the woman is in the examination room and says she does not want the vaginal exam. She gets told by the nurse, "Sorry, Miss, you`re first trimester." Next panel, "The male Republicans who run Texas require that all such abortion seekers be examined with a ten-inch shaming wand." The woman says, "Will it hurt?" The nurse says, "Well, it`s not comfortable, honey, but Texas feels that you should have thought of that." Then, the doctor about to perform the procedure says, "By the authority invested in me by the GOP base, I thee rape." And so, yes, a lot of papers decided not to run "Doonesbury" that week. "Look, though, would this be your first pregnancy termination?" "Yes." "Then you`ll have to fill out this form. Please take a seat in the shaming room. A middle aged male state legislator will be with you in a moment." And then in the next strip, the next day, we get to meet the guy who was introduced in the previous day. I have to make a personal aside here. When I was a senior in high school, I started to cut class a lot. I don`t recommend doing this, but I did. I started to cut class a lot and one of my teachers took an interest in me and did me a huge favor by getting me hooked on classic "Doonesbury" comic strips. She would start me on the new storyline in the first class of the day and then she would send me the next installment in the storyline by school internal mail. The next installment would not get to me until my next class that day. And then the next installment would come in the next class, and so on and so on all day long to all of my classes. So I would have to go to all of my classes in order to find out what happens next in the comic strip. It totally worked. It made me stop cutting class when I was otherwise a totally apathetic high school senior. And without "Doonesbury", I could not have done it. So, anyway, here`s the end of one day strip. "A middle aged male state legislator will be with you in a moment." And then, in the next day`s strip, we get to meet him, there he is. "Young lady, I`m Sid Patrick, one of the sponsors of the Texas sonogram bill. Would this be your first visit to the center?" She says, "Oh, no, I have been using the contraceptive services here for some time." "I see." Silence. "Do your parents know you`re a slut? Surely, they suspect." "Nurse." Gary Trudeau, international all-time comic genius and of course dozens of papers across the country, not just in Texas, dozens of papers across the country felt they had that shield their readers from "Doonesbury that week, lest the readers be offended by his portrayal of reproductive rights policy in Texas. And, frankly, that`s part of why the Internet will live and physical papers will die. But, of course, Texas is not the only state with a forced ultrasound law on the books. Louisiana has one. Wisconsin has one. North Carolina. It was last year that governor ultrasound, Bob McDonnell, earned his governor ultrasound nickname when he signed into law a version of the mandatory ultrasound bill for Virginia. Bob McDonnell had sponsored legislation like that as a state representative. He signed it into law when he became governor, even though he tried to distance himself from the bill once it earned him lots of protests and national attention and, of course, the nickname. But then there`s the also the great state of Oklahoma, a state that passed the mandatory ultrasound bill back in 2010. In addition to requiring the ultrasound even if you do not require it, and your doctor does not want you to have it, the Oklahoma law mandated that the doctor had to show you the ultrasound screen and had to describe to you everything that the screen could pick up, even if you didn`t want to hear that description. Most of these laws do not require women to watch, do not require them to listen to the description in detail. Some of these laws at least allow women to look away. But not in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma law, made you watch against your will, made you listen. The Oklahoma law also mandated that the ultrasound had to be an internal one. It had to be a transvaginal probe by order of the state, for almost all abortions. When Oklahoma passed their bill, it was quickly challenged in court. The law has never been enforced in the state. Last year, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck the law down, saying it was unconstitutional. Well, Oklahoma`s attorney general and other state officials appealed that ruling to the United States Supreme Court and today, the Supreme Court responded and said that Oklahoma law is staying dead. They refused to overturn the state Supreme Court ruling that struck down the forced vaginal ultrasound law in the first place. The court turned away the state`s appeal without comment. You know, remember, Oklahoma is not alone. "On behalf of Texas Governor Rick Perry, may I welcome you to your compulsory transvaginal exam." Oklahoma is not alone in having a policy like this. And so, now, here`s the question: did the U.S. Supreme Court make this decision on this Oklahoma law because Oklahoma`s law is particularly bad in constitutional terms? Because it was more out there than other states? Or should this ruling today be taken as an indication that maybe all these states laws like this, all of them, may be in more constitutional trouble than they were before we all woke up today. Joining us now is Nancy Northup. She`s president of Center for Reproductive Rights. Nancy, thanks very much for being with us tonight. It`s nice to have you here. NANCY NORTHUP, CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS: Thank you. It`s good to be here. MADDOW: So, tell me in your own words, from your perspective as the organization involved in this case, what your perception is of the larger importance of this ruling? Obviously, it has direct impact in Oklahoma. Does it speak broader to the issue of these kinds of laws? NORTHUP: Well, I think it does. The Oklahoma state court had a very strong ruling in this case. That the Oklahoma forced sonogram law was unconstitutional. And found it unconstitutional under Oklahoma`s constitution, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court found it unconstitutional under the federal constitution. So, we are incredibly pleased that the Supreme Court is not going to review this, it`s letting this strong decision stand. And we want to see the same kind of decisions in other courts where these are going through. MADDOW: Well, I know that a lot of these states that have rulings like this on the books, they are either enjoined or de facto enjoined by this issue being in the courts, or there being court rulings stopping them from being implemented. Do you expect to see similar rulings in, say, you now, North Carolina, Louisiana or other states that have this direction? NORTHUP: We certainly hope to see a similar ruling in North Carolina, that`s a state in which on a preliminary basis, they have enjoined a forced sonogram law like the one in Oklahoma. And that is still in the trial court, but we are hoping if the facts and the Constitution is followed, that we will have success in Oklahoma as well, and can put a stop to these laws that are demeaning to women, do not trust women to make decisions that are their own personal health decisions to make. MADDOW: Nancy, in terms of the broader strategy here, we have seen in the last few years and we have talked about it before on this show, we have covered it extensively on the show. The way that Republican state legislatures and governors have become more aggressive than at any time since Roe versus Wade in terms of mounting new legal restrictions on access to abortion, whether it`s the forced ultrasound bills or whether it`s bans on when you are allowed to have an abortion, or hoops that you have to jump through in terms of waiting periods, and laws that frankly make it impossible for clinics to stay open. Obviously, they think they`re going to be able to chip away at abortion rights in a state by state way without ultimately getting to the question of the constitutionality of abortion broadly. Is this leading to a Roe versus Wade challenge, or are they trying to avoid one and they think they can just get closer to it without hitting it. NORTHUP: Unfortunately, I think it`s both ends. I think they are both trying to see if they can chip away at Roe so much that basically the tree trunk falls. And at the same time, they`re also happy to get up to the Supreme Court and make a full run for having Roe overturned, and people have to understand that the seriousness behind these laws. But the real impact of them is what we need to be paying attention to. You talked about Texas earlier, because the injunction that was won in the district court. District court in Texas found that their law that makes a trumped up regulation that you have to have admitting privileges, they found it unconstitutional for good reason because a third of the clinics in Texas cannot see patients right now because the fifth circuit court of appeals lifted the injunction while we defend that win. So, that is a real impact on women. And we`ve got to be sure if that can happen in the second largest state, what is going to happen to access across the country? You know, we`ve got to make sure that no matter what your zip code is, that doesn`t depend on whether you can have your constitutional rights afforded. MADDOW: Nancy, if there was a direct challenge to Roe right now that did make it to the U.S. Supreme Court, do you have confidence that the court would uphold that precedent? NORTHUP: Well, it`s hard to read what the Supreme Court is going to do. Justice Kennedy was in the majority in the Planned Parenthood versus Casey decision which reaffirmed Roe. I believe that the facts that we`re seeing in states like Texas, if a case like that gets to the Supreme Court that we`re going to I hope have Justice Kennedy see that the facts show that women need access, that these kinds of laws are underhanded ways of doing what the Supreme Court has said you can`t do. You can`t flatly ban women from being able to get abortions and you shouldn`t be able to go indirectly and in a sneaky ways to do what you can`t do directly. And so, I am hopeful that the court will see that women need their access to health care and that they need to stand by the strong decision that they had in Roe. MADDOW: Nancy Northup, president of the Center of Reproductive Rights, thanks for helping us understand the impact of this decision tonight. Appreciate having you here. NORTHUP: Thank you. MADDOW: All right. Even though the elections were a week ago, there`s still no final results in one very crucial race, but we`ve got an update and you will want to hear it tonight. Happening right now. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Sometimes just the decision to vote can make a guy very, very, very, very suddenly popular. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Veteran Rob Smilke (ph) had hoped to spend his holiday hiking in the woods with his dogs. But over the weekend, his phone started to blow up. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People have been coming, Democratic Party calling, Republicans calling, everybody calling, coming to the door, on my way up here today, the cell phone is ringing off the hook. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You wanted to go hiking. But then you went and voted and now, everybody is calling. This is what is like right now in one part of Virginia where the race is so close, and the rules about how to count the vote are changing while the counting is happening. And individual voters are being plucked out of their normal lives and their normally planned hiking trips to come back to the elections office and do work to try to make their vote count. There is a midnight deadline on this tonight and the work is going on right now, and this is a weird and developing story. We`ve got the latest in just a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is a Virginia voter today. Look at this. Kathy Jackson is her name. Isn`t this an awesome picture? She lives in Fairfax County, Virginia. Her picture got tweeted today by a correspondent from WUSA. This is the caption "Kathy Jackson of Reston is relieved after the Fairfax County Electoral Board gave a nod for her vote." Kathy Jackson had to vote with a provisional ballot in Virginia`s elections this time. So, that meant it was not a sure thing that her vote would be opened up and counted in this election. But Kathy Jackson showed up to plead her case, to plead with the electoral board to please count her vote. And thumbs up, she got the nod from the electoral board. Her vote will be counted. Ms. Jackson was one of dozens of people in Fairfax County who had to make the trek back to the elections office over the last few days to argue that their vote should be counted in this very, very close election. Each of those people really, really matters right now, because Virginia`s election isn`t over yet, a week after the polls close now. I mean, we know that Ken Cuccinelli is not going to be the governor of Virginia. We know that Bishop E.W. Jackson will not be the lieutenant governor of Virginia. But will the Democrats sweep the statewide races? We still do not know. We still have no idea who is going to be the attorney general of the great commonwealth of Virginia. In the race between Republican Mark Obenshain and Democrat Mark Herring, Mr. Herring, the Democrat, now leads by 106 votes, out of more than 2.2 million votes cast, which is really super incredibly crazy unbelievably close. In an ordinary election year, if you had to cast a provisional ballot, if they wouldn`t let you cast a normal ballot for whatever reason and you had to cast a provisional ballot, you might be annoyed. You might even be outraged to learn your vote was never opened. Your ballot was never opened. Your vote was never counted because they never even bothered going through provisional votes because they wouldn`t make a difference. That would happen in a typical year. But in this race, in this year, oh, boy do they have to count every single one, because just a fraction of the nearly 500 provisional ballots that were cast in Fairfax County alone could easily swing this whole election. By long standing practice, voters in Fairfax County, who got forced into using a provisional ballot for whatever reason, they could ask somebody from one of the parties to show up with the electoral board and argue the case for their vote to be counted. You could see here for instance, the signoff form used by Democrats for the election last week. Quote, "I hereby appoint the Fairfax County Democratic Committee to represent me at the meeting of the Fairfax County Electoral Board to consider my provisional ballot and to advocate for signing my ballot. Now, the board would consider your ballot, whether you showed up or not. Your presence was not required. But if you wanted to better your chances, if you wanted to make the best possible case, that your ballot should be counted, you could ask a party representative to make the case for you. While you, went about the rest of your life. And lots of people who cast provisional ballots signed up to do just that. That`s how it has always been done in that part of the state. But that changed on Friday. The election was Tuesday. They changed that plan on Friday. This is totally different from the way they have been running elections in Fairfax County for years. But by order of the Republican- dominated state board of elections, after the election itself, and in the middle of counting the votes. Now, Fairfax County has been told they have to change the y they counted provisional ballots. Now, the state has ordered the county that representatives advocating can speak up for voters` ballots if and only if the voters themselves showed up in person. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Veteran Rob Smilke (ph) had hoped to spend his holiday hiking in the woods with his dogs. But over the weekend, his phone started to blow up. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People have been coming, Democratic Party calling, Republicans calling, everybody calling, coming to the door, on my way up here today. The cell phone is ringing off the hook. I think that every vote counts. This just sort of reinforces that your vote really does count. REPORTER: This voter came armed with documentation to prove he lived and voted in Fairfax County. His driver`s license, conceal carry permit, a tax form. If his ballot is accepted, it`s one for the Democrats. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m, you know, a veteran. I was looking forward to doing Veterans Day things today, not coming done here. But voting is the best thing about being a veteran, you know? So this was important to me. Voting, the best thing about being a veteran. Voting is a great thing about being a citizen. And so, for the past few days, voters have been streaming into the Fairfax County elections board, waiting for the chance to defend their votes, because in this election as of Friday, you had to be there personally if anybody was going to mount a case that your vote should be counted. That decision was made by the state elections board, they say, at the direction of the office of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Ken Cuccinelli was the first attorney general in Virginia in 30 years to not step down when he decided to run for another office. Because he stayed on as the top`s state lawyer, even though the past A.G.`s resigned. Virginia`s election rulings in this close race are now being made on the advice of an office, his office, where the boss was one of the guys on the ballot. Ken Cuccinelli`s office is making decision about how to count the vote hour, to change the way volts are counted for the first time in years, he`s making those decisions for his running mate, whose election is too close to call. Nobody -- I`ve got to tell you. Nobody in Virginia political reporting is squawking abut this the way I am. And I will admit I seem to mow more upset than any bed close to the story. I am not alleging anything conspiratorial here, but if I were a Virginia voter, I might like to have somebody who is not a candidate making the decisions. I think it matters as a question. I think the facts about Ken Cuccinelli`s involvements are the facts. Today, as we were going to air, the Fairfax board of elections finished deciding provisional ballots. Reports from the meeting show they declared just over half the ballots to be valid. Based on the evidence for why those votes should count, then they brought those ballots in. They prepped the tabulating machines. They begin opening the sealed envelopes containing ballots, so the counting could begin right away. We`ve just got an unofficial report from the local NBC reporter on the scene who says the Democrat in the race widened his margin by more than 50 votes with tonight`s voting. We`ll see when the official tallies come over. This has been an amazing race. And it is not over. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END