Republicans Have an Ambitious Agenda for the Supreme Court

Why the G.O.P. doesn’t need to try to pass mostly unpopular policies through the elected branches.

Not so long ago, Republicans had one of the most ambitious legislative agendas of any political party in modern American history.

Devised by the former House speaker, Paul Ryan, the so-called Ryan budget sought to reduce much of the nation’s social safety net to ashes. Congressional Republicans planned to slash Medicaid spending and food stamps. In the most aggressive version of Mr. Ryan’s proposal, Republicans would have replaced Medicare with “premium support” vouchers that could be used to buy private insurance, and then reduced the value of this subsidy every year — effectively eliminating traditional Medicare over time.

But all of that has changed. The Ryan budget is a relic. At their 2020 national convention, Republicans didn’t even bother to come up with a new platform.

Yet while the party appears to have no legislative agenda, it’s a mistake to conclude that it has no policy agenda. Because Republicans do: They have an extraordinarily ambitious agenda to roll back voting rights, to strip the government of much of its power to regulate, to give broad legal immunity to religious conservatives and to immunize many businesses from a wide range of laws.

It’s just that the Republican Party doesn’t plan to pass its agenda through either one of the elected branches. Its agenda lives in the judiciary — and especially in the Supreme Court.

From 2011, when Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives and denied President Barack Obama a governing majority, until the pandemic forced legislators’ hands in 2020, Congress enacted hardly any major legislation outside of the 2017 tax law.

In the same period, the Supreme Court

  • dismantled much of America’s campaign finance law;
  • severely weakened the Voting Rights Act;
  • permitted states to opt out of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion;
  • expanded new “religious liberty” rights permitting some businesses that object to a law on religious grounds to diminish the rights of third parties; 
  • weakened laws shielding workers from sexual and racial harassment; 
  • expanded the right of employers to shunt workers with legal grievances into a privatized arbitration system;
  • undercut public sector unions’ ability to raise funds; and
  •  halted Mr. Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

Now, a 6-to-3 conservative-majority Supreme Court is likely to reshape the country in the coming decade, exempting favored groups from their legal obligations, stripping the Biden administration of much of its lawful authority, and even placing a thumb on the scales of democracy itself.

Many of these changes would build on decisions handed down long before President Donald Trump reshaped the Supreme Court. The court, for example, first allowed employers to force workers to sign away their right to sue the company — locking those workers into a private-arbitration system that favors corporate parties — in a 2001 case, Circuit City v. Adams. But the court’s current majority is likely to make it much harder for workers and consumers to overcome these tactics. In Epic Systems v. Lewis (2018), Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the court’s majority opinion favoring an employer that forced its employees to give up their right to sue.

Similarly, in the 2014 case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court held that businesses seeking a religious exemption from a law may have it — holding, for the first time, that such exemptions may be allowed even when they diminish the rights of others. That case permitted employers with religious objections to birth control to deny contraceptive coverage to their employees, even though a federal regulation required employer-provided health plans to cover contraception.

Before Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the Supreme Court, however, a majority of the justices were very reluctant to grant religious exemptions to state regulations seeking to limit the spread of Covid-19. Yet after she became a justice, the court’s new majority started granting such exemptions to churches that wanted to defy public health orders.

It’s plausible that the Republican Party did not campaign on its old legislative agenda in 2020 because it was busy rebranding itself. Under Mr. Trump, Republicans attracted more working-class voters, while Democrats made gains in relatively affluent suburbs. So Mr. Ryan’s plans to ransack programs like Medicaid aren’t likely to inspire the party’s emerging base.

And yet the court’s conservative majority is still pushing an agenda that benefits corporations and the wealthy at the expense of workers and consumers.

It’s easy to see why government-by-judiciary appeals to Republican politicians. There’s no constituency for forced arbitration outside of corporate boardrooms. But when the court hands down decisions like Circuit City or Epic Systems, those decisions often go unnoticed. Employers score a major policy victory over their workers, and voters don’t blame the Republican politicians who placed conservative justices on the court.

Judges can also hide many of their most consequential decisions behind legal language and doctrines. One of the most important legal developments in the last few years, for example, is that a majority of the court called for strict new limits on federal agencies’ power to regulate the workplace, shield consumers and protect the environment.

In Little Sisters v. Pennsylvania (2020), the court signaled that it’s likely to strike down the Department of Health and Human Services’s rules requiring insurers to cover many forms of medical care — including birth control, immunizations and preventive care for children. And in West Virginia v. E.P.A. (2016), the court shut down much of the E.P.A.’s efforts to fight climate change.

Yet to understand decisions like Little Sisters and West Virginia, a reader needs to master arcane concepts like the “nondelegation doctrine” or “Chevron deference” that baffle even many lawyers. The result is that the Republican Party’s traditional constituency — business conservatives — walk away with big wins, while voters have less access to health care and breathe dirtier air.

By legislating from the bench, Republicans dodge accountability for unpopular policies. Meanwhile, the real power is held by Republican judges who serve for life — and therefore do not need to worry about whether their decisions enjoy public support.

It’s a terrible recipe for democracy. Voters shouldn’t need to hire a lawyer to understand what their government is doing.

If President Trump starts a new political party, The Patriot Party, after he leaves office, what impact will this have on the Republican Party?

Absolutely catastrophic in the short term. The result would be somewhat similar to the effect Teddy Roosevelt had on the Republican Party when he broke with Taft in 1912.

I estimate Trump’s control of the Republican electorate at about 40%. He has control of what I call the talk radio wing. They’ve been motivated by immigration and white nationalism, white grievance, “they will take our guns” nuttery and/or anti-SJW “own the lib” stuff since the 1990s.

The rest is, give or take –

  • 20% traditional Reagan conservatives (e.g. Mitch McConnell) who actually care about conservative small government dogma & philosophy but believe in democracy
  • 20% evangelical Christian conservatives (Ted Cruz), mainly single issue focused on abortion and anti-LGBTQ (styled as “religious freedom”). They are prone to support an authoritarian if he wins and does what they want.
  • 15% country club pro-business, pro-privatization G.W. Bush, McCain, Romney, lite-conservatives, also believe in democracy.
  • 5% moderate Kasich, Murkowski, Collins types. Also believe in democracy.

(So over half the Republicans don’t really gaf about democracy, in large part because they can never be convinced that votes from people or places they don’t approve of are legitimate voters)

The election would *mostly* be between Trump and Biden/Harris. The Republican nominee would be a Cruz or Rubio type, kind of irrelevant, the way Taft was in 1912.

Trump would get decent amount of electoral votes and the Republican Party would get disastrously pasted in the House and Senate as a result of splitting the Republican coalition.

The ratio of Republicans to Democrats Trump would pull would be probably 5 to 1. He would pull a few Tulsi Gabbard types from the Democrats but destroy the Republicans by taking that talk radio set away from them, which is at least a third of their party and probably closer to 40%.

In a bad-case scenario for the GOP, the map would look something like this:

I gave:

  • Trump the states which in 2020 voted for Trump with 60% or more and had at least 2 points stronger Trump margin in 2020 than in 2016.
  • Democrats any state where they won at least 45% of the vote in 2020, in which a 10–15% drop in the Republican share would be catastrophic. I see no Clinton-Biden state in which Trump would strengthen Republican chances or be able to win himself.
  • I gave Republicans the rest – states where they won both 2016 and 2020 and Trump declined a bit or stayed even with 2016, and Democrats failed to get over 45%. Iowa was right on the bubble at 44.9% so I counted it a tossup.

Republican senate and House seats would be lost like crazy. The Republicans would recover after the Trump effect wore off like the way the Bull Moose Party faded out without Roosevelt. But in the short term, 4–8 years, it would be very very bad for them.

Frank Schaeffer on American Evangelicalism and Its Roman Catholic Allies

I am sharing this video from Frank Schaffer in support of his message in order to amplify it as he requests in the video.

I am a religious person, a professing cradle Roman Catholic. I do not see this critique of American Evangelicalism and its alliance with (White) Roman Catholic as a threat to my faith or to my religious tradition. I see it as a much-needed wake up call to conversion for religious people and especially to American Christians.

‘The emergence of a third party is among us’ – Interview with Lincoln Project Co-Founder Rick Wilson

Joe Biden won the US presidential election with 306 electoral votes. But incumbent President Donald Trump has yet to concede, and the Republican Party seems to be at a crossroads after four years of Trumpism. What direction will the GOP take going forward?
The Lincoln Project’s Rick Wilson offers a very bleak outlook into the GOP’s future. He says ‘the Republican party has sold out itself to Trump’ and what follows Trump will be more dangerous, because it will be more sophisticated.

00:00
trump supporters rallying for him again
00:03
they won’t accept that their president
00:04
lost the elections
00:06
and they’re determined to keep him as
00:08
their leader
00:09
around 73 million americans voted for
00:12
trump
00:13
making them a formidable force of force
00:15
that also
00:16
threatens to run out of control
00:19
he loves america he loves america he
00:22
does not quit on america
00:24
and that’s why america will not quit on
00:26
him
00:27
i’d like trump to start a new party if
00:30
he wanted to
00:31
the republican party is changing real
00:32
fast so we’re
00:34
we’re gonna be represented by the
00:35
soldiers the veterans uh the
00:37
hard-working people of this country
00:39
not by the corrupt politicians that sit
00:42
up here and get fat on our money
00:44
and steal everything from us
00:48
there are many who want to take the
00:49
republican party down a more
00:51
moderate path to strengthen their case
00:54
they talk about this man abraham lincoln
00:58
he was the president who won the civil
01:00
war and ended slavery
01:02
and he was a republican he is the man
01:05
anti-trump republicans turn to when they
01:08
want to invoke
01:09
reason and moral values into present day
01:12
arguments
01:14
the lincoln project is a political
01:16
action committee
01:17
set up by former republicans to prevent
01:20
donald trump
01:21
being re-elected i want to hear their
01:24
thoughts on the future of the gop
01:26
from rick wilson one of the co-founders
01:29
how could donald trump happen
01:33
well donald trump was not just about the
01:35
republican party it was about american
01:36
culture
01:37
and this is a country that has become
01:39
largely addicted to
01:41
and mediated by reality television and
01:44
so
01:44
the man they saw on the apprentice for
01:46
14 years
01:48
on television looked competent smart
01:52
steady brilliant negotiator great deal
01:54
maker great businessman
01:56
of course we all know in the real world
01:59
that was never
01:59
even close to donald trump’s actual
02:01
character or who he really is
02:03
as a person and a leader but that was
02:06
something that
02:07
between fox and reality television
02:09
republican voters were insulated in this
02:12
uh sphere of irreality of fantasy
02:16
and so donald trump uh reached the
02:19
republican
02:20
presidential stage at a moment where
02:24
where republican voters had become
02:25
increasingly isolated from reality of
02:27
any kind
02:28
and had become increasingly addicted to
02:30
the kind of defiant
02:32
uh oppositional nature of
02:35
fox news and of their own facebook
02:38
groups and their own online
02:39
communities and as those moments um
02:43
you know evolved in the 2016 election
02:46
it became harder and harder for actual
02:48
republicans who had
02:50
you know the ideological predicates of
02:51
the past limited government
02:54
personal responsibility you know strong
02:56
international relations and good
02:58
relationships with our allies
03:00
all of those things were washed away
03:02
because donald trump
03:04
gave them entertainment and
03:07
i mean you you are a former republican
03:10
was there any sense
03:12
how dangerous it could be letting him
03:15
in well i was screaming about how
03:18
dangerous he was since 2015
03:21
and by the by the middle of his
03:24
administration by around 2018
03:26
there had been a massive schism in the
03:28
party there were only two types of
03:30
people left
03:31
those who understood how dangerous he
03:33
was and would speak
03:34
and the vast majority who understood how
03:36
dangerous he was and wouldn’t speak
03:38
you know there’s there’s a secret here
03:40
that most republicans the vast majority
03:42
of the elected officials
03:44
do not like donald trump they are not
03:45
trumpists they are afraid of them
03:48
but they don’t like him they don’t
03:49
regard him or admire him
03:51
now i will say that that doesn’t fix the
03:53
problem
03:54
because with donald trump there is never
03:58
a limit to which he will press these
03:59
folks as we saw this week in america
04:02
where
04:02
17 republican attorneys general in the
04:05
states
04:05
um went out and and pushed hard
04:09
to to have the supreme court invalidate
04:13
the 2020
04:14
election now these people they’ve
04:16
abandoned
04:17
all of their you know former political
04:19
and ideological predicates
04:21
for trump uh and so what you’ve seen is
04:24
a radical transformation of the gop
04:26
into the trump party what what should
04:29
the gop
04:30
do with all these trump supporters i
04:32
mean 73 million voted for him maybe not
04:34
all trump supporters but
04:36
you know i mean what should what should
04:39
the
04:39
the gop do luckily it’s not my problem
04:42
anymore
04:44
you know good riddance um but look
04:47
they have to have a painful
04:49
reconciliation with what they have done
04:51
there has to be a look back at the way
04:54
they have corrupted the party on trump’s
04:56
behalf
04:57
and until they do that i don’t think
04:58
there’s a real solution
05:00
going forward because he has been such a
05:03
transformative figure
05:04
the republican base vote the republican
05:07
the ordinary republican voters there’s
05:09
only one thing they hate more
05:11
than a democrat and that’s a republican
05:13
who hates donald trump
05:15
and so they’re going to be driving the
05:18
party further and further into the
05:19
trumpet space which is authoritarian
05:21
which is nationalist which is highly
05:24
regimented around the obedience to the
05:26
dear leader
05:27
you know it has frightening historical
05:29
precedence and what i worry about as a
05:31
former republican and knowing the sort
05:32
of character of the people still in the
05:34
party
05:35
i’m worried about the more competent
05:37
smart
05:38
presentable version of trump that’s
05:40
going to come down the pike in a few
05:42
years
05:43
that to me is um
05:46
an enormously concerning uh impact of
05:48
trumpism
05:50
what could come out of that asking as a
05:52
german
05:53
well yeah what could go wrong as i like
05:56
to say
05:57
um yeah those sort of things as i said
06:00
there are a lot of historical precedents
06:02
that are not good
06:03
um and not just the german precedent
06:05
there are many many other nations
06:07
um that that have gone down this
06:09
authoritarian statism
06:11
uh and it always leads to an abuse of
06:15
power it always
06:16
at the minimum two abuses of power uh at
06:18
the maximum to the worst case scenarios
06:21
and and i’m afraid that trump has
06:24
conditioned a generation of republicans
06:26
to believe
06:27
that if they don’t get their way that
06:29
they don’t need to work within the
06:30
constitution of the united states that
06:32
they can go an extra constitutional
06:34
extrajudicial extra political route
06:36
which may involve violence
06:38
which may involve the generation of of
06:40
enormous risks
06:41
for the future of one of the world’s
06:43
longest running and
06:44
most robust democracies rick um
06:48
i talked to republicans i have the
06:50
feeling that they are not understanding
06:53
what is going on
06:54
no a lot of them when you’re talking
06:56
about reconciliation but
06:58
from what i i mean experienced the last
07:00
couple of days
07:01
working on this piece i think that they
07:03
don’t quite
07:04
get it no they they don’t understand it
07:07
and they don’t understand that that
07:10
without donald trump
07:12
as the figurehead of their party they’re
07:14
going to lose a meaningful number of
07:16
their own voters
07:18
those voters have become members of a
07:20
trumpist movement a faction
07:22
if you will and that’s not going to go
07:25
away
07:26
his son will pick up the mantle when
07:27
donald trump dies or his daughter
07:30
or people that imitate him very closely
07:33
uh will pick up that mantle and there’s
07:35
nothing that can be done
07:37
about that because the republican party
07:40
has sold itself to trump
07:41
there is no institutional republican
07:43
party left to push back against trumpism
07:46
what does that mean politically for the
07:49
united states and for the rest of the
07:51
world so to speak
07:52
well it means that we have a that the
07:54
emergence of a third party
07:56
in the us is is upon us and that party
07:59
is not
08:00
an american party that party is
08:02
dedicated to authoritarianism
08:04
that party is dedicated to the worship
08:05
of a single family
08:07
um that party is is oppositional
08:11
to anything that gets in their political
08:13
way and that opposition manifests itself
08:16
in ways that are not traditionally seen
08:18
in the american political space
08:20
look the american political space has
08:22
long had a center left
08:24
and a center right and and the the edges
08:28
of both parties
08:29
were not terribly influential and there
08:32
was always a tug of war
08:34
between those center left center right
08:35
voices now
08:37
we have a voice on the extreme right of
08:39
trumpism
08:40
which is um which is driven by again
08:43
that oppositional defiance
08:45
of traditional norms and values and laws
08:49
it’s driven by a hatred of immigrants a
08:52
hatred of
08:54
various races it’s driven by a hatred of
08:58
the elite the educated the experts um
09:01
and that’s a recipe for a country
09:04
that has a major political party that
09:06
does not look like anything we’ve had in
09:08
our history
09:09
there’s never been a true large scale
09:12
i mean we had you know george lincoln
09:15
rockwell
09:16
you know and then we had some of the and
09:18
you had lindbergh in the bund
09:20
back in the 30s that was growing into a
09:22
political force
09:24
but they never manifested at the level
09:26
that the trumpest party is manifesting
09:27
itself
09:28
and that’s something that is that is
09:30
concerning a lot of americans who
09:31
believe
09:32
regardless of their ideology whether
09:34
they’re conservative or progressive or
09:36
whether they’re
09:37
moderate or they’re liberal it’s
09:39
concerning a broad spectrum of americans
09:41
to say
09:42
you know this is a pathway that leads to
09:45
a very bad outcome in this country
09:47
and the concern is rising and it’s right
09:49
to be it’s right to be rising
09:51
and that’s why our group the lincoln
09:52
project has stayed in this fight
09:55
we we know that defeating donald trump
09:57
was only the first step
09:58
trumpism is a more dangerous and more
10:00
pernicious movement
10:02
than anyone could have accounted for
10:04
even a couple years ago
10:05
but it has this very powerful allies in
10:07
the media it has a very powerful ally in
10:10
facebook which allows
10:11
all these these alt-right and
10:14
proto-fascist and
10:16
and and openly fascist groups like the
10:18
proud boys
10:19
to to organize and to use it as a
10:22
bullhorn and to proselytize and
10:24
and to propagandize the american people
10:27
and so we’re seeing
10:28
uh an enormous risk that what follows
10:30
trump is is more dangerous
10:32
because it’s more sophisticated than
10:34
donald trump ever was
10:36
last question rick um what should uh
10:40
the western world learn from this
10:42
example
10:44
you know how dangerous is it when you go
10:45
to bed with the devil as we say you know
10:47
sure and get out of it so what what is
10:49
your message kind of you know
10:51
well look there is there is a clear
10:52
message for for folks in europe
10:54
uh especially because there is a rising
10:58
uh tide of rescission from the
11:00
democratic norms
11:01
that define sort of the atlantic charter
11:04
field and the the eu’s
11:06
uh original mission that recision is
11:08
happening
11:09
all over europe i mean you have erdogan
11:11
in turkey who
11:12
is essentially a dictator um you have
11:15
people
11:16
um who are very alt-right who are who
11:18
are trying to
11:19
you know put on a suit and tie and it’s
11:21
not just the clownish sort of le pen
11:23
types it’s you know people who appear
11:26
presentable who say some of the right
11:27
things
11:28
but who are part of this global
11:30
alt-right movement this global
11:31
this global rising tide will zombasha in
11:35
in albania of all things there’s a guy
11:38
who you know looks presentable he
11:40
doesn’t come out you know wearing a an
11:42
armband
11:43
but the things he says and wants to do
11:45
are enormously dangerous
11:47
if you’re going to look at modern
11:49
european democracies or modern or modern
11:51
western democracies
11:52
writ large and these risk factors have
11:55
appeared in
11:56
asia in south and central america in the
11:58
united states obviously
12:00
and across europe and that’s one of the
12:02
reasons that again our group is fighting
12:04
so hard
12:05
to to in america now
12:08
increasingly abroad to face these kind
12:11
of challenges
12:12
from this from this far right uh
12:15
racially inflected movement
12:16
that has grown i mean look if you look
12:18
at the governments of albania and poland
12:20
and hungary
12:21
you are not looking at things that that
12:23
that the post-war
12:25
consensus would have recognized um as
12:28
embracing the values that that we all
12:31
believed
12:31
shaped the western civilization in the
12:33
in the years after world war
12:34
ii and in the years after the collapse
12:36
of the soviet union
12:38
and so it’s enormously troubling it’s a
12:40
fight that we’re in now and we’re going
12:41
to be in for
12:42
for apparently quite a long time are
12:44
there any leaders in the republican
12:46
party who could kind of take over again
12:48
do you see any figures there may be
12:50
leaders in the republican
12:52
party but it’ll be a smaller party i
12:54
mean look there are guys like mitt
12:56
romney
12:56
and adam kinzinger uh and and some of
12:59
the folks in georgia
13:01
who have said no the president not you
13:03
know was not cheated
13:05
um but that courage is
13:08
is very rare few and far between
13:11
i mean when you’ve only got uh 27
13:14
members of congress in the republican
13:16
side who have acknowledged that joe
13:17
biden won the election
13:19
you’ve got a much smaller party than you
13:20
once had so
13:22
as the conservative side splits the
13:24
trumpist party will be
13:26
two-thirds to five-eighths uh of
13:30
of what was the gop and there’ll be a
13:31
smaller romney sort of republican party
13:35
and that’s not an effective um that’s
13:38
not an effective political party at the
13:39
national scale
13:40
at that point that’s a disturbing
13:42
outlook
13:44
yeah i don’t sleep a lot so and did you
13:48
see like
13:49
how do you schedule how do you kind of
13:51
see the next kind of two years or so
13:53
evolve
13:53
what’s going to happen well i think
13:55
you’re going to see an awful lot of
13:57
republicans
13:58
trying to destroy joe biden’s
14:00
administration very quickly
14:01
they’re going to use legislative tactics
14:03
in the senate particularly
14:05
to deny joe biden the ability to do
14:08
coveted relief
14:10
or health care relief for our hospitals
14:13
and doctors and nurses who have suffered
14:15
so badly during the course of covet
14:17
you’re going to see them block his
14:18
appointments as much as they can
14:21
so their idea is to train wreck
14:25
joe biden’s administration the first two
14:27
years
14:28
so they can recapture the senate at the
14:30
same time you’re going to see a whole
14:31
crop
14:32
of new trump-ist style candidates
14:34
emerging tom cotton josh hawley marco
14:36
rubio mike lee
14:38
ted cruz they’re going to all be running
14:40
for president in 2022
14:42
and you’re going to have donald trump
14:43
and his he’s on paper running for
14:46
president
14:46
but you’re also going to see his son
14:48
preparing to run for president 2022
14:51
so there will be a strong set of
14:52
incentives to keep driving that
14:54
authoritarian statism and and that that
14:57
sort of new
14:58
fascism message of trumpism in the next
15:00
two years to four years
15:02
because that is where the republican
15:04
base has been transformed and that’s
15:06
where those people will go and run to
15:07
try to get their votes
15:10
rick thank you very much i hope we can
15:12
talk again in some
15:13
i would love to that’d be great this is
15:15
an ongoing conversation in the world
15:17
absolutely i’d love to i’d love to see
15:19
because this is kind of well this is
15:21
what we experience as you said in many
15:22
other countries as well
15:24
so stay safe thank you very much you too
15:27
great to talk to you on this i’ll talk
15:28
to you soon

America’s Great Divide: Steve Schmidt Interview | FRONTLINE

Steve Schmidt served as a political strategist for George W. Bush and the John McCain presidential campaign. He is a political analyst for MSNBC and NBC News.

Schmidt’s candid, full interview was conducted with FRONTLINE during the making of the two-part January 2020 documentary series “America’s Great Divide: From Obama to Trump.”

Watch Part One here: https://youtu.be/SnMBYMOTwEs
And Part Two here: https://youtu.be/l5vyDPN19ww

 

 

50:57
And so when you see Donald Trump and you see the servility of the coequal branch of government,
51:05
the absolute unwillingness to confront him, to confront his excesses, his dishonesty, his degradations of the office,
51:14
his attacks on the institutions, is an utter, complete, total abdication of a responsibility and duty that’s historic.
51:26
The “zero tolerance” policy, the family separation issue, you’ve written a little bit about this, I think.
51:34
What’s at stake here?
51:37
I think you sort of pointed to the fact that this was an important point to understand,
51:42
that Trump basically owned the GOP at this point.
51:45
Explain—explain what you’re thinking.
51:46
This is a question of national honor.
51:49
The United States of America should not separate mothers and children
51:55
and lock the children into cages, into detention facilities.
52:00
Should not.
52:02
And it recalls the worst excesses in American history: the separation of African American mothers and children
52:11
during slavery; the separation of mothers and children who were Native Americans.
52:20
We have had great injustice in the country,
52:26
but the greatness of the country is the ability to make great progress combating it.
52:31
It’s wrong.
52:32
When you see a government official with an American flag on their shoulder committing that act, it’s disgraceful,
52:45
it’s dishonorable, it’s cruel, and it’s inhumane.
52:51
But we have become desensitized in this era of Trump to cruelty, to inhumanity, to indecency, to dishonesty,
53:03
to all of our great detriment.
53:06
Why did you leave the party?
53:08
Because the Republican Party—well, I’ll say this.
53:14
I think the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are both broken institutions, the Republican Party more so.
53:24
But while broken, they also are two of the most important institutions in world history
53:32
for the advancement of human dignity and freedom despite all of their flaws.
53:38
For me, I could no longer be a member of a political party that was so corrupted by Donald Trump
53:47
that he consumed lock, stock and barrel, and the leadership of the political party fundamentally capitulated to him.
53:59
The Republican Party’s not a conservative party anymore.
54:02
It’s a party that’s populist, that’s nonsensical at times, that’s illiberal a lot of the time.
54:12
And all of the things that I’ve believed in and have steadily believed in, I still believe in,
54:20
but that institution is no longer the vessel for them.
54:25
… The 2018 midterm elections.
54:28
So Trump uses the [Brett] Kavanaugh story and immigration as a way to excite the voters.
54:37
The media, Fox, stokes it, supports it totally.
54:46
There are a lot of lies that are told about exactly what’s going on.
54:50
What’s—what’s the result?
54:53
As a man who believes in the system and in politics and the way it needs to—how campaigns are run,
55:01
what was your view of what was taking place?
55:04
Well, there was only one issue in the 2018 election.
55:07
It wasn’t immigration; it wasn’t Brett Kavanaugh.
55:10
It was Donald Trump.
55:11
And the question before the nation in 2018 was, are we going to put a check on Donald Trump and the party of Trump?
55:19
And the answer to that question was a decisive yes.
55:23
And part of that decisive yes were millions and millions of Republican voters
55:28
who voted Democratic for the first time in their lives.
55:31
Right.
55:32
This election was also fascinating in the Democratic Party because there was a split within the Democratic Party as well.
55:37
And you’ve got progressives like AOC [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and others who are—
55:44
who rise up and are elected and become very important voices and define the divide within the Democratic Party.
55:52
What’s going on within the Democratic Party, and in the end, how does it—how does it play out from your perspective?
56:00
Well, you’re seeing a rising extreme in the Democratic Party that is the mirror opposite
56:10
And I think Democrats make a big mistake if they answer Trumpism with dishonest progressivism.
56:16
If you go out and say that we’re going to give everybody free health care, free education;
56:22
give everybody reparations; … we can go and spend hundreds and hundreds of trillions of dollars—this is all fantasy.
56:30
And in a political contest dominated by dishonesty and fantasy—
56:35
and I would suggest that competing against Donald Trump is the equivalent of running a foot race against Usain Bolt.
56:42
Not going to win a dishonesty contest with Donald Trump.
56:45
And so in this moment, what Democrats, in my view, should be focused on is the assemblage of a grand coalition
56:55
that is fidelitous to small “L” liberalism, to our democratic values,
57:01
that Americans of all different types of political persuasion can come into and feel at home in.
57:09
The progressive agenda represented by AOC, a, won’t pass; b, doesn’t have a national constituency;
57:21
and c, could well be the reason that we see a second term for President Donald Trump.
57:27
You think that’s a real possibility?
57:29
Sure do.
57:29
Trump’s rhetoric has been blamed for rising tensions, white supremacists sort of being more blatant in their demands
57:41
and their marches and such, and it is tied directly to the El Paso massacre.
57:47
What is your overview on the power of rhetoric and the repetition of that rhetoric, especially if it’s based on falsities?
57:58
Well, Trump has debased his office; he’s debased the culture; he’s debased our political conversation,
58:06
and he’s done it thousands and thousands and thousands of times over the last three years.
58:11
He’s a racist; he’s a race baiter; he has worsened racial divisions in this country.
58:18
He has energized the white supremacist movement in the country,
58:22
and we know that’s true because the white supremacists thank him openly for doing so.
58:29
Now, we see a president who divides, who stokes, who incites, who appeals in almost every instance
58:40
not to the better angels but to the worst impulses,
58:43
the worst instincts and the basest, darkest aspects of American history and American life.
58:51
And what does this mean long term for your GOP, your party that you used to belong to?
58:58
Well, the Republican Party will be completely transformed, probably fatally, by its contact with Donald Trump.
59:08
And that may play out over five years, over 10 years.
59:13
But when you look at the demographics in the country, there will always be a market for a conservative message.
59:21
But Trumpism is cancerous, and everything it touches will ultimately be consumed by it.
59:30
But far more important than the effect of the Republican Party is the effect on the country.
59:38
It weakens American democracy.
59:42
And I think it’s also important to understand that the Democratic Party will not remain untouched by Trumpism also.
59:52
How so?
59:53
Well, if crudity, if meanness, if vulgarity, if inhumanity become mainstreamed,
60:02
if the lesson of this generation of progressive politicians is to be like Trump but with different policies,
60:11
then the Democratic Party will be consumed by it as the Republican Party has.
60:16
The—both sides coming up to the upcoming elections warn about apocalypse.
60:26
The consequences if the other side wins are just unfathomable.
60:32
Is this the new norm?
60:35
Each election has always been the most important election in American history,
60:41
and the men and women running for president have always made it clear that their candidacy represents
60:48
the decisive moment and the last chance to avoid the apocalypse.
60:56
It may be true in this election.
60:58
This country will be changed in ways that will be difficult to unmake if Donald Trump gets a second term. …
61:10
Donald Trump is cruel, vile; he’s debased his office; he’s incompetent.
61:17
But it’s a mistake to dismiss him as inconsequential.
61:21
We are at the end of the long life spans of the people who stormed the beaches in Normandy,
61:28
who survived the death camps.
61:30
And what Franklin Roosevelt’s goal when he envisioned the world that we live in today,
61:35
when he architected the post-World War II U.S.-led liberal global order that was maintained
61:43
from President Truman through President Obama, his aspiration wasn’t that it would endure forever.
61:51
What he said is he wanted it to endure so long as every person
61:57
who was living in the country during the war was alive on the earth.
62:04
We’re at the end of that era.
62:06
And we see Donald Trump unraveling that U.S.-led liberal global order.
62:13
We see a regression of democracy all over the world.
62:17
We have an illiberal president who assaults our institutions, our values, our democracy, who debases our culture.
62:29
Another term for Donald Trump will validate his election; it will validate his behavior.
62:36
He will be unchecked, and the damage will be much, much harder to undo if it can ever be undone.
62:44
So we’ve talked about two presidents that were change candidates,
62:51
that the public turned to because they were so angry with the status quo in Washington and in the country.
62:59
What did we learn from that, and where do we go from here?
63:07
Another change candidate but in another direction?
63:12
I mean, as [David] Axelrod says, you always go to the opposite on the next election
63:19
because the people are tired of what the last guy did.
63:22
What’s your take on American politics and where we go from here?
63:29
The Democratic Party’s obligation in this election is to produce a political leader who can defeat Donald Trump
63:40
and to defeat Trumpism, not to defeat Trump by being a mirror of Trump, but to assemble a coalition
63:49
that can inspire the nation to move past this depraved era
63:54
and to face the challenges that the country has to face full-on, head-on.
64:00
And so when we look at the Democratic Party right now, it’s no accident that Trump is labeling Democrats,
64:07
and some of those Democratic politicians are making it easy for them when he calls them socialists,
64:12
because Trump understands this: In America, the socialist loses to a sociopath in every election,
64:21
every day of the week, and twice on Sunday.
64:25
I just have one question about Trump’s use of social media.
64:30
Some have said he’s the first politician to ever do that,
64:34
but it seems that Sarah Palin was really pretty instrumental in using Facebook as a way to reach her audience.
64:39
Can you just connect those two ideas?
64:42
Well, I don’t—look, I don’t think they’re analogous.
64:51
IPhones were invented in 2007, so the ubiquity of social media, the portability of social media, the instant nature
65:03
of social media is something that didn’t exist in 2008 but certainly does now, and he uses it to great effect.
65:12
… One other small thing is the use of divisive issues that he—that he falls back on, like the NFL.
65:24
How powerful is that, and why does he do it?
65:30
Well, Trump understands—Trump understands the power of symbols,
65:38
and he understands the emotional resonance of those symbols to millions and millions of Americans.
65:46
And so he is a—he is a very talented demagogue.
65:55
He is a very skilled liar.
65:59
He is an excellent communicator, and he speaks in a language that people can relate to and that people can understand.
66:10
That’s an important thing for his political opponents to understand also.
66:14
And this immigration issue, which is so central to—I mean, does it remain central in the upcoming elections?
66:22
I mean, why?
66:24
Does the potency wear off at some point?
66:28
Well, what you’re seeing now is a reciprocal extremism from a lot of the Democrats.
66:34
Now you watch the Democratic debates, it’s fair to ask, well, do you believe there should be a border at all?
66:41
And so most Americans, overwhelmingly, Republicans and Democrats, believe yes, there ought to be a sovereign border.
66:50
We should know who’s in the country.
66:52
And so there’s no constituency for the most extreme positions that you’re seeing on the Democratic side.
66:59
Trump understands that.
67:01
And so we have an immigration debate that’s not just venal; it’s completely detached from reality.
67:08
When the debate is we’re talking about Mexican-built walls,
67:12
we are sending military to the border in publicity-stunt exercises as if there was a Panzer division
67:20
about to break through the southern border en route to Washington.
67:24
It’s a theater of the absurd playing out as opposed to an issue that needs to be reckoned with
67:31
and dealt with in a humane, responsible and commonsensical way.