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The Cape up podcast is sponsored by farm where the one hundred forty thousand researchers America's bio pharmaceutical companies are finding new cures and treatments for diseases like hepatitis C HIV in diabetes. Visit go boldly dot com. Hi, I'm trying to think K part and welcome to Kepa. Michael Steele is back the former chair of the Republican National Committee, and I sat down outside at the inside. American politics conference at villa Pietra the NYU campus in Florence Italy. I asked him his thoughts on the midterm elections. The impending speakership of Nancy Pelosi, whether the real focus should be on Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell hear what he has to say about all of this right now. Michael steele. Welcome back to the podcast. Welcome back. Indeed is so good to be with you. So I wanna let. Citing wouldn't let everyone know that we are coming to you from villa Piotre NYU Florence for the annual inside American politics conference, and we're sitting outside if you hear students walking by and automobile noises that is what's going on with such good fluent talian. So we're having this conversation. Now, what a few days after the midterm elections. Democrats retook the majority in the House Republicans added perhaps a couple of seats seats in the Senate give me your assessment of what happened on election night. What where are we in terms of American politics? I think as much as the president wanted this to be about him. It was I think this all midterms election elections are referendum on the administration in charge in large measure this more. So than we've seen with other simply because of the president put himself on the ballot. He went around the country, basically saying I'm on the ballot. You know, telling the candidates that he's support it. You know? Yeah, they vote for you. But tell them also they're voting for me. And so it's a little bit ludicrous. And yet still Trumpian for him to then come after the fact and say. Oh, wasn't about me at all the these losses. I had nothing to do with the house. That's that's Ryan's problem and taking credit for whether whatever games we're in the Senate. But the bottom line remains that the American people I think really began to answer two questions one being what kind of country they want it. And number two being what kind of leaders they want to run the country, and I think in large measure. They've turned an eye towards Democrats. Now, I think the Democrats can make a mistake by thinking that all of a sudden the country's making this progressive shift to the left unit lurch towards progressivism. I don't think it's such that as it is an idea that they are more interested in reconnecting government. So it's interesting that you two really good you pose to really good questions in your response. And I want to actually get you to answer them. Okay. I one being what kind of country. Are we giving the results what kind of country? Do you think we are? I think we're a country that right now is. Grappling with some some Trues that we have buried for a long time on race on class and culture on ethnicity on those types of issues, dealing with the diversity of the country, dealing with the degree to which there is a sort of progressive undercurrent, if you will in that not in the sort of far left sense, but just in terms of moving politics more towards where people are and and their real life situation and both conservatives and liberals can be progressive in that regard, you know, moving beyond sort of a status quo perspective, so you have that sort of roiling tension at at a at a certain level, and and coming to grips with that is what we've seen over the last certainly the last year, but I would say over the last two years Trump goes in and he picks it those scabs in those wounds. And we have to deal with the bleeding. You know, whether it's you know, a policy that locks kids up, even though they're not our kids still as a nation. We have to respond to that. We find ourselves having to respond to seeing children in cages or. You know, situations like Charlottesville or or even looking at the economy. How in one since people can say, oh, yes, you know? I support the tax cuts, but the next breath say that the country's on the wrong track. You know, again, it's the reflection of how people are digesting this. So that that what kind of country are. We question forces us to really kind of deal with the answer of recognizing. Where are we we we our country now that at least a good forty percent of its people don't mind the crazy that we see they invited. They encourage it. They support it have very little pushback in terms of the misogynistic comments and attitudes. The racist comments and attitudes. Those things that are kind of coming. The four again that scab being pulled off in the wound being exposed. I, you know, it's interesting. You talk about this. I I'm thinking about Trump's President Trump's closing argument. That was so it was fear, and it was Hades, and it was fear, the invasion, and I noticed that we haven't heard much about the care man since sees me since election night. I think that gets to the second part of your question, which is what kind of leaders do we want when you have a president who goes around the country, openly trafficking, and xenophobia, and and racism answer your question, what kind of leaders do we want? And I think I think the country began to to give some sense of that when you look at the candidacies of of Democrats who won and Republicans who lost and. Sort of the the idea again. And I think the takeaway can be can be problematic. If you look at it through two narrow prism. So you look at for example, a beta Aurore contests for the US Senate race against Ted Cruz. He had a lot of cross appeal. Lot of people started talking about him as the the young JFK, the new JFK sort of this youthful expression of a hopeful America sort of Ronald Reagan ask, but a younger model of that where you found a lot of Republicans in Texas sort of buying into this idea that he was putting out there and Ted Cruz in many respects sort of holding onto the old vestiges of of old, Texas, and and the sort of youthful, not so. Much in age. But in terms of freshness of approach in ideas, and a recognition that. We're just tired of being torn apart over stupid stuff like politics. You know, we're tired of being pushed into corners. And here's this guy coming out and saying, you know, there is a better pathway. We're going to have our issues, but there ways that we can resolve them together without having to resort to the kind of ugly politics that we have up to now than certainly what we've seen Trump to to. You know, your lead up to the question how the president has played prayed on the fear and the concerns that people have. So you see these these fresh voices sort of emerging. And and it's interesting. The impact of it. Because at the end of the last three weeks of the campaign. What did you see Republicans doing? They were pivoting on healthcare last three weeks a longer than healthcare, but not tax cuts. Right. Right. But, but even even more specifically in that sense that all of a sudden you had you know, you know, you had the governor of Florida doing TV commercials talking about he's going to protect the very thing that his government is suing the federal government pre existing conditions. So, you know, same with Scott Walker in and Wisconsin. And so you foul Republicans all of a sudden now recognize it where the sweet spot was. And it wasn't where they were the sweet spot had moved. It wasn't this the sort of anger mongering type of politics that they sort of bought with Trump. It was something different. These these new of voices that were beginning to emerge in the political and scape weren't playing those those fears and they had to respond to that. Oh, let me stop you there because the president comes out the day after after the midterm, and he stands there. He says a whole lot of stuff. But one of the things he said was he he laid blame on those Republicans who lost. He said you loss because you ran away. You didn't quote embrace me loss because they Kerr Bello. He named out mispronounce his name me a love. She didn't. She didn't show me any love. Right. I mean, doesn't he have lost because of him? It wasn't a matter of embrace. If they're the only thing I would say they so they did the right thing by not embracing him. Of course, they did. But but there's a little thing called stigma. So the truth of them. I don't need to embrace you. But because we're in the same space. You're you're ish flows off to me as well. So, you know, I I know this firsthand in two thousand six haven't been on the ballot in two thousand six for the US Senate that despite the fact that people appreciate it and support my tenure as Lieutenant governor Maryland and the work that we had done across the aisle. They they saw me as a bipartisan leader, and they saw governor Erlich is a bipartisan leader, the the stench of of, you know, the times, you know, being a Republican at that time was not a good a good thing. You know, I called it. The scarlet letter are at that time because it didn't matter what you had been doing. And how people looked at the fact that you were a Republican. So in this environment. It doesn't it didn't matter for me a love that she she did not embrace the president the fact that she was part of that environment because she was a Republican in her state. And this is Utah. We're talking about in talking about. This is Utah. What does that tell you? You're not going to sit here and tell me that Mia love it embrace Donald Trump in the state of Utah that heard her plight would have been different right? And in all the states in the union Utah's a red state, but it's a red state where President Trump is not popular. Exactly. So, and there was a reason why she didn't embrace them because of that unpopularity, but it was not enough to overcome the impact that his presidency and him personally would have on her campaign. So this idea that he's throwing these Republicans under the bus after the fact talks about how petty he is number one. But number two, how little he appreciates his own shortcomings as someone who who candidates are going to have to judge independent of their party affiliation mean being Republican or their connection to the president. If he thought the Republicans were running from him in twenty eighteen. Just wait till twenty twenty baby. In the in the Senate race is different just Senate. But even in the houses, well because the map in the Senate as you said is very different. But he is absolutely in that case at the top of the ticket. There is no let's put Donald Trump in play here. No, Donald Trump will be the main stage in that election and every race down ballot from the presidential race will take into consideration. The impact of having him at the top of the take he and there's so many strands here because I do want to come back to Bago I need, but let's keep going here on the president. He's this guy who wants all the attention on him. Clearly, what happened in this midterm election is Mr President that direction. You are going is a road the American people don't like and don't want. And yet we have seen now for the last two years. He does not course. Correct. He does not admit failure. He does not change. So what you're saying is or let me ask you are we going to see Donald Trump twenty eighteen and what he did in the closing argument do that in twenty twenty on steroids. It was this wasn't stare. This was nice to know baby. This was this was not steroids because he wasn't on the ballot number one. He didn't have to directly. Engage number two. He picked pick and chose where he wanna to want it to play you notice. He did not play in battleground congressional districts where the racist were competitive for those Republicans and probably if he had put a little moxie behind. It could have saved a few seats arguably because he would have ramped up that Republican base a little bit more, and they would've turned out, but he doesn't get to. He doesn't get to avoid that in twenty twenty. He's running for re election. He started his reelection campaign literally a year ago, and he is he's placed himself on the ballot regardless. So he's the center. Like, you know that he wants to be the center of attention. He is now in the center of attention going the twenty twenty. So there is no there is no work around where candidate will be able to say, you know, you know, do the Heisman with the president affectively because the president is going to be part and parcel. The reason why they vote or don't vote for you as as a candidate in twenty twenty. And I think that's going to be a reality. For a lot of a lot of those Republican candidates in purple states. On on the ballot in in night in two thousand twenty as well as as well as the president himself coming to the recognition that maybe his stuff stinks. A lot more than he thinks about. We we all know the effort hasn't triggered. What is that? Smell. Just don't know we need to do something about that. Yeah. Well, the voters were about to about teams. Right. So in the in the panel that I just moderated and you're you're sitting on during the Cuban eight Jonathan Martin of the New York Times asked you ask you all a really good question. And that was what loss concerned, you the most and in used sort of turned it on its head, and you pointed to Texas as a huge warning sign to the Republican party, and and Beto Rourke and Ted Cruz talk more about that. Well, why is that a warning sign? I think I think a lot of times we focus what seemingly is the right thing. In other words, the question that Jonathan was an appropriate one. So what races should? You be concerned about because you lost. Okay. And as a as a former chairman up and down the pike you make that calculation you do that assessment. But I always sort of. And I I guess one of the reasons I've survived in in places that I've survived is because I tend to I tend to play a long game of ball than most political players. Do we tend to be much more short term and for well over ten years? Now, I have I have had my own particular flashlight on the great state of Texas. Why is that well because I've paid attention to what the Democrats have been doing in the great state of Texas for last ten to twelve years, and they have very effectively gone about laying down the kind of seed that has generated rather appropriately germinated into the election of democratic candidates for mayor in some pretty important spots in Texas. You know, Dallas and Houston and places like that. We're Democrats seemingly people look at Texas, and they go, well, that's a red state. It's very conservative. Well, there are a lot of democrat elected officials in the state of Texas who are. Leading edge indicators of where the state is going in other words. Republicans and Texas have gotten used to voting for Democrats in Texas. A ha all right. And I think in looking at the way this race played out between Bego and Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz one. But in the end Republicans, I think lost because what you saw was emerging. Unlike what we've seen with democratic candidates before the female Senate candidate state Senator who ran around the Wendy Davis. Thank you Winnie Davis who everyone sort of all my excited about windy day when he Davis was no better award. But Wendy Davis was the precursor that allowed a better a rock to arise. All right. So folks didn't pay attention to they would just looking at the end result of that. As there's a little bit more attention to the seed pay attention to the seeds because the seeds that that fell from her campaign and the momentum that was born out of that while it dissipated. Yes. There was still though sees planted. And I think better beta was beneficaries of that. So. The the truth of Texas for Republicans is and I and I say this with a great deal of sincerity two cycles from now, meaning the twenty twenty elections and twenty twenty two because then you'll have redistricting a whole bunch of things. Yes. The legislature still decidedly Republican, but the demographics. You can't overcome and anything demographic demographics destiny. Is that what you're saying? Yeah, they can be they can be. And I think we're looking at a country that is various communities are using as those voters come online, particularly in Hispanic community, and and the country's Browning. Yeah. I think the demographics can be can be your political destiny. If you're not smart. And if you don't know how to get in front of that and develop that that that relationship it will it will. Oh, break itself off in a way that you're kind of left at the side of the road. And I think Democrats have seen this and and pretty much and maybe somewhat inadvertently, but pretty much found themselves in that vantage position. And that's why a lot of Democrats that you talk to. They were depressed about what happened in Texas. They see longer term. This was actually maybe a good thing. The capa- podcast is sponsored by pharma where the one hundred forty thousand researchers with America's by pharmaceutical companies are finding new cures and treatments for diseases like hepatitis C, HIV and diabetes. So here's the fearlessness too fan. Success can follow and to the patients helping to find the breakthrough that might say their lives, and perhaps one day yours. Welcome to the new era medicine were together. We go boldly a message from America's biopharmaceutical companies. Visit go boldly dot com. Well, let's talk near term because in in a few weeks Nancy Pelosi more likely than not will be the next the next speaker of the house. She's her Maryland, originally, you're from Maryland talk about Nancy Pelosi and. What President Trump has in store in dealing with not minority leader Pelosi, but speaker Pelosi well, first off Trump has a problem with with strong women who have opinions, and he has a problem with women in leadership positions that that that can go toe to toe and countermand his his Matiz. Mo right. And I think in Nancy Pelosi, she has she grew up in an all male political environment where there was nothing, but testosterone, Emma cheese. Mo and and all the crap that goes with the dad was the one of the most policymakers of Baltimore, and that political family, you know, had great sway in the state for a long time. And so. Oh, that's the environment in which she grew up. She parlayed that in into a successful race in California. And now, you know, historically, the first female speaker of the house and soon to be the second female speaker house, and I and I think you underestimate Nancy's abilities at your own peril. I think Barack Obama did to a certain extent. And then actually certainly at the end of the healthcare debate came to rely on those skill sets because we have health care for good or for bad. We can have that policy discussion. But the politics of it was won by by one person one person only, and that's dancing Pelosi. And which is why I focused our firepower in two thousand ten on her and not Barack oh bio in the form of a bus around the country with fire. Yeah. What did you say fire Pelosi? And there was a reason for that. Because I understood where the power center was in that in that very dynamic relationship between the White House and the house between the president. And the speaker the speaker had the edge and Obama was largely okay with that. I think in many respects, and so there are a lot of a lot of stories about Nancy Pelosi. I think that will tell you truth about her abilities, the least of which has to do with how she basically whipsawed her caucus and and pulled together the the healthcare legislation and got it passed without one Republican vote. That's that's an amazing feat. If you understand how the house works, right? That's an amazing feat to get something that's going to reconfigure one six of the nation's economy without of haute from the opposition party. And. That means you held your own caucus together in a way that John bainer could not do. And and Paul Ryan could not do. And quite honestly, very few speakers have been able to do in in modern history. She's very she's very proud of that accomplish getting the portable characte pass without a single Republican vote. I asked her. Yeah. In the early days of her being minority leader and the budget fights were happening. And but the debt ceiling was coming. And I asked her if she thought then speaker bainer had the votes to raise the ceiling says what you have to ask you have to ask him that. But you just said, you are master vote counter, you know, how this works. And she said again, you have to ask him that I'll say this. I got the Affordable Care Act passed without a single Republican vote and the uh she says a lot in that one initially. And I again, I think people underestimate. Nate her Billy. I I've been on the record for over a year saying that if Nancy Pelosi wants to be the neck speaker of the house Nancy Pelosi will be the next week or the house and for all these Democrats who ran around the country and their congressional and Senate races or whatever races there in talk about. Well, I'm not voting for Nancy. Yeah. You say that until you sit down in front of her. Wait. What's what's gonna? What's going to happen when they sit down in front of her. Well, let's go. Well, I think what happened is Nancy look at them and go I'd like your support for speaker. And they'll go I'm sorry. I I've said on the record I can't support you. And she said, that's fine. Just remember when I win this, and it comes to running this house. Just remember. The speaker. And then suddenly this isn't a decision for the majority leader these decisions that we made by the speaker and these decisions being your offices in the office in the basement. Your your budget? Meeting. You wanted committee assignments? And so I get it and some will be given a pass on that because she could afford to give them a pass on it. Some will not some will some some of those sleights will be a personal to her because she knows what she's done for some of these candidates in the past and and so forth. So. You have to be very careful about and it's a trap when the press gets in front of you. When guys like you get in front of the candidates. Are you intending to vote for someone is you know, it's trap and you have to recognize it. And yes, you're trying to win your primary or when your general, but you have to think again longer term when I win. What happens if I'm now on the record trashing this person, some of these people really trashed her fairly trashed her during the campaign, and I can't believe that they were so deaf dumb and blind. Not to recognize where tells me they didn't have an appreciation of what power she had and position that she would be because the always ask yourself the question. Well, who's going to challenge her when when Alexander Alexandria, Cossio Cortez takes out the guy who's -posedly? Okay. So who does that leave? So one of the things you pointed out to me in a conversation yesterday was not only the danger is not danger. But the issue for these members of the house sitting in front of Nancy Pelosi having the conversation about whether they're going to vote for her. But then when it comes time to vote they actually this is not a secret. Ballot sequence it gets to the speaker. Right. They've got a stand stand up and declare openly who you're voting for for speaker. And so it's going to be a tense moment for some of these people miss. She's sitting there with the. Well, she's not sitting with the clipboard. Jefferson their clipboard. All right. So what are the dangers then? So let's Nancy Pelosi. She's she becomes an speaker of the house, and now all the world's attention is now focused on on on the Democrats, and what they're going to do which is fraught with danger because there is a section of the party that not only wants Trump investigated. They want him run out on they wanted impeachment now. Yeah, they need to slow their role on that. I the country did not the country voted for a lot of things on on Tuesday in the election last week, but they didn't vote for impeachment. And I think we need to be honest about that. I think I if there's any interpretation that's what happened. It's a misinterpretation certainly misunderstanding where the voters were there was nothing reflected in exit polling. There was nothing reflected in polling leading up to ninety. But not even the wrong the wrong track numbers the wrong track numbers. Do not get you to impeachment. Okay. The wrong track numbers may get you to a lot of other boxes that you need to examine as the party out of power the party in power. But it does not get you to impeachment. And so I think that and I you know, I I put cautioned on that on Twitter. And of course, people got all upset about is like, well, look, I get your own personal biases. And you Donald Trump go gone, but Donald Trump is not going to go that way. Donald Trump is either going to go by his own hand. Meaning he doesn't run for reelection. Which is still something. I think is put elastic there write this down. Then clear that's a little bit of a possibility to Robert baller investigation and ANSI Pelosi has I thought it of you contracting. Press conferences, post-election, she she was the state's woman. She gave the the statesman's response to the election. The president gave petulant ten year old response to the election. What he's blaming those who didn't support him in vote, you know, and and and embrace him and and shifting the blame. And and and sort of again preying on on old old narratives, so you had this contrast and getting into the whole fight with members of your your colleagues and in the media in front of the nation picking on, you know, African American journalists female journalists. In in is dazed. The mazing. I mean. This is his isn't just this isn't accidental. No, it's not as all deliberate. And now is is it because these are women or is it specific to black women that he has a problem. You know, that's that's a very good question. I, you know, I think it part of the female narrative. I mean, these women's standing up in questioning him, and in a way that is serious and and determined, but I think it also when you you look at how he has talked about talked about referred to black women specifically from April, our friend, April Ryan, two members of congress. And and it there's something there. There's a there's an undercurrent that's different an unfortunate. And I think it needs to be exposed and call about for what I what we perceive it to be racist. Yeah. And I think only he can assure us otherwise. But he has it. So there. Four and even if he were to try right credibility is gone. We keep talking about Nancy Pelosi and all the attention is on her. But am I wrong in thinking that really all the attention should be on Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell because let's say Nancy Pelosi is successful in actually doing a policy agenda, getting bills out of the house infrastructure health care, Kaime it change you name it pine the sky issues. And then it goes over to the Senate where? Let's talk more about that. Because. Yes, stuff will go there and die. But why? Well, I think largely I don't know to be honest, if I fully subscribe to that. Yes. The Senate is the place where we're legislation goes to die. Okay. That's part of our process. The way the founding fathers set it up. All right. And and that's fine. We get that part of it. But I think in when you're looking at the twenty twenty psycho, which Mitch McConnell is much more of a long ball player than many of his counterparts. Are we saw that with supreme court nominees where he played a long game, and he took a risk and a bet and he and he won on that because he sized up his Ponant and how they would respond. The x factor for Mitch McConnell is is not Chuck Schumer. It's not Nancy Pelosi in the bills that she says. The X factor is Donald Trump. All right because Donald Trump is not a Republican Donald Trump is not a conservative, and he could give a rat's ass about both of those things as we've just saw play out in this last election. And so I think a couple of things one Nancy Pelosi has the advantage of sending over to the house to from the house to the Senate legislation that the president will want to take a bite of starting with infrastructure, and she's particularly at that already. And I think it does a couple of things for her. It puts them in puts her leadership in play with the president in since that they now have something to negotiate over in about it takes off the table. At least takes off the top side of the table now beneath the table, it could still be moving all of the investigations in the stuff that the hard left, progressive rank and file want to see her. Do she has to be strategic? Smart enough to recognize she cannot give Donald Trump that when because he will beat her over the head with it. He will make himself the victim in twenty twenty. It will rile his base up to the same degree that we saw in the twenty sixteen cycle when the Republican established and basically pissed on him and said now, we don't want this guy certainly after the access Hollywood tape where everybody kinda ran ran away. From what happened that base coalesced tightened around him? So that's his play. And that's what we saw him do in this last election with the Zina phobia, and the the racism and just sorta tightening that base and it worked for him in the Senate it worked at held the Senate seats that he needed to have held immigra- specs. So there is that piece with Mitch McConnell's concern really comes in is he's looking at twenty plus Republicans running in purple states. And he if he wants to be the majority leader come twenty. Twenty one. He's gotta ask himself. What do I need to do to hold this majority right with Trump at the top of the ticket? And and it's it's going to be I think giving his Republicans something that they too can run on in that cycle. And so all of a sudden it infrastructure Bill may not look so bad to him in terms of killing it out outright because in purple states that infrastructure Bill is going to be a popular piece of legislation. It's going to mean jobs. It's going to be it's gonna play right into sort of the growth expectation narrative that Republicans talking about certainly. In terms of these enterprise zone types efforts that they were touting over the last year. So it there is there is a space where Nancy Pelosi could actually wind up helping someone like Mitch McConnell, and and while it may tick off some of her base in me tick off some of the people that she really going to need in the final hour because of the politics of, you know, Bernie Sanders and the presidential cycle and all of that she's gonna find a way to to to create winds to hold her whole hold the leadership in the house and at the same time. Yeah, there's going to be some derivative benefit maybe for Republicans in the Senate in purple states who who may wanna buck Amaechi McConnell who said we don't want to move on this and they go. No. Yeah. We do. Do and the president himself is going to want that because he's going to want the win. He's going to. He's indicated his willingness to negotiate with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer on DACA, you know, can even be trusted. But here's the deal. Why did that why did that breakdown? It didn't break down because of anything. Mitch McConnell did because he broke down because of the freedom caucus in the house. It wasn't just the free. Well, I mean by going back, but it went house through Miller, but it was killed that was that that was coming for animating from that very very strong majority voice in in the caucus, right? That's not there now. Yeah. It's going to consolidate because of the losses. The moderate Republicans who lost how seats the moderate to true conservative Republicans who lost house seats in in twenty in in the twenty eighteen cycle that that coalesce in condenses that that freedom caucus, but they're in the minority male. And so in terms of weight and pressure on on on the president is not there's not as much there and the president to want to get something big done and his big deal is going to be infrastructure in my estimation. Can the Republican party with the top of top of the ticket and President Trump who ran around the country the closing days with a message of racism and xenophobia and hate Ken the party whole together. If as you say he runs that same playbook in twenty twenty what does that say about the Republican party that part of the part that the Republican party that many of us belong to say present tense is is is on the ropes. There's no doubt about it. It is it is given way to this sort of trumping Trumpian impact, very nationalistic with the president calling himself nationalist now, he's stint. Extensively an essentially said that about the party itself that we're now a nationalist party because he's the titular head. And you know, he's going to reflect that in we're going to reflect that and they're those of us who are it's not questioned being resistant to it is like outright reject. It is not resist. This is rejection. This bullshit, I would not buying it. We don't want any parts of it. Because it's not reflective of any angels better or worse. For america. It is not reflective who we are. So that part of the party has has its hands full in the fight there. So in terms of where the party, how the party pivots and moves in twenty twenty you've got full embrace embracing of Trumpism. That they're not gonna they're not going to move away from that. And whether there are battles internally to challenge the president and challenge that remains to be seen. We don't know how that plays out. But the truth of it is there's going to be a a moment of loggerhead where is going to be that come to Jesus truth that you're you're either going to stand with this or you're gonna stand with the legacy of Reagan, and an Eisenhower, and and and Bush, and and Ford and all those other Lincoln Lincoln. Yeah. Imagine imagine. So yeah, I think that's going to play itself out. Because again when the guy who's running your your shop has no allegiance to what your shop does or who's in the shop. This is what you get a let me and with the same question. I always end. With with you. And that is why given all this stuff. That's happening. Why are you still in the Republican party? Why don't you? Join other Republicans of of of conscience and concern in leaving the party. Well, because this is where my conscience is. I mean, I I made a conscious effort to come into the party as young man against great and a great deal of resistance by family and friends who like I don't know if we really want you to come to thanksgiving. There's that. But let me put it to you. Let me answer it this way. So I come to your home. You invite me over for a nice dinner, and I come to your home. And during the course of that evening. I start breaking your China. I start slicing drapes tearing up your carpet putting holes in your walls. So at that point, do you leave or do you kick my ass out? I mean that that's almost a rhetorical question. Because I'm gonna kick you. You go kick. Yeah. Right. And that's where I I'm not leaving. This is my house I helped build the modern Republican party as best as I could along with a lot of good men and women who you know, including some of my friends who've left like Steve Schmidt and the coal Wallis. But a lot of us are still here like K, James, and and and and J C watts. So yeah, I know I gotta repair the drapes and patch up the holes in the walls and replaced the carpet, but you'll ask will be gone. And that's the goal. Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee as always thank you very much for being on the could you provide the very next. We bring this back yard with us this beautiful deal. Thanks for listening to Cape up. Tune in every Tuesday, you can find us on apple podcasts, and Stitcher and how about doing me a huge favor subscribe rate and review us. I'm Jonathan Kaye. Part of the Washington Post, you can find me on Twitter at Cape heart. Jay.
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How Mitch McConnell is Prolonging the Shutdown, and What He Did to Turn the G.O.P. Into the Party of Trump
This is the political seed a weekly conversation with New Yorker writers and editors about politics. It's Thursday January eighteenth, I'm Dorothy Wickham executive editor of the New Yorker. As the government shutdown enters its fifth week, the longest of any in American history. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell continues to support Trump's demand to include funding for border wall in the new budget. Democrats who this month took control of the house of representatives say that the house will reject any such Bill on Tuesday. Reporters asked McConnell, if he'd consider working out a bipartisan compromise that could override Trump's veto a suggestion. He dismissed out of hand. In a situation like this where the president in my view and the right place trying to get the right outcome as all of us have expressed with regard to border security. Of course, not. Alec McGillis joins me to discuss. How McConnell led the way in turning Republicans into the party of Trump, and how democracies become captive to minorities. Who thought the will of the public? Welcome. Alec. Thank you. I wanted to get you on today because I've been reading the book you wrote about McConnell's political rise. And I want you to talk a little bit about how someone so devoid of charisma, and so many of the other typical political attributes became one of the most powerful men in the country. It's true that he is McConnell is remarkably lacking in certificate political skills, especially for someone who comes from the upland south in Appalachia, which is a region that is produce a lot of much more sort of folksy populace types of politicians. He's the kind of person view might have expected not to go into actual campaigning running for office, someone who would you'd sort of be the scenes guy that she staff type the strategist type, but instead he decided to actually run for office himself way back in the seventies. And he's been very aware of his lack of of natural political skills in that has over time led him to compensate for that over the years. Whether it's raising tons of money, so that he would have a lot more to spend than his opponents or whether it's hiring people like Roger Ailes as he did back in his Senate run to make devastating campaign ads on his behalf, but he's just almost to his credit. He's been very. Self-aware about this inadequacy on his part this utter lack of of natural political talent you in the book, you describe Goodman, who I guess was the first political consultant. He he connected with and how he was the first one to shape McConnell as candidate. It's great little story wonder if you could talk about that just a little bit. Yes. I came across Bob lives lives right in Baltimore where I reside now. And he was the guy who I advise McConnell on his on his first campaign, and he and other people who worked with him in those early years were were struck by how incredibly eager almost desperate McConnell was to conform to their advice into their urgings, and how to be a better candidate, and how willing he was to to sit for multiple takes for ads for TV ads and to be molded really into into someone who could be semi plausible candidate for office. He has since the this gentleman has since grown very very dismayed by. It became of McConnell in his role in helping launch him way back then because of course, back in those days, he was a very moderate Republican in the in the sort of the war for the Republican party soul. That was going on on the sixties and seventies. Mitch McConnell was very much the side of the moderates may abortion, right? He's supported comprehensive immigration reform among other shoes. He well, immigration reform was not such a live issue back in that era. So the issues where he was sticking out moderate ground were abortion rights, where he was a staunch defender of Boertien rates in in Louisville Kentucky in the seventies labor. He was he sought out the endorsement of the AFL CIO in in got it in his first race for office and Kentucky the environment. All these issues. He was very much on the moderate end of the spectrum immigration reform came along later course, when he'd already sort of made a swamp to the right? That's an issue where it's been notable. How much he has? Ducked. The issue back in two thousand when George W Bush was first trying to take on immigration form and the two thousand six thousand seven period, it was striking. Just how completely he absent himself from that whole debate. When one of those big bills up into thousand seven he didn't even speak on the Bill until it was clear that it was not going to pass which point he voted against it. And what he have supported it. If you saw that the votes were going the other way. He he may have. I mean, this one gets the sense that this is an issue where he has no real strong feelings about it. Either way in his just very worried about how his votes on. It will affect his own standing and Kentucky one thing to keep in mind about McConnell is that his standing and Kentucky is much weaker than you'd expect for someone with so much power. There's very little affection for him in his home state. So he's constantly much more worried about his own elect reelection prospects than you think for someone so veteran, and why is there that lack of support? I think it has more to do with that lack of of political skill that he's never built up any real reservoir of goodwill and affection just because he's not a very cuddly guy. And so you're just not gonna develop any real emotional tach meant to him. Because what it start to attach yourself to? This week on the New Yorker radio hour anew documentary may provide a reckoning for our Kelly the Aren be star who's long been accused of sexual abuse. So he was at his trial on trial for having sex with an underage girl. And he was cruising eleventh graders on that trial. The hubris will hear from filmmaker dream Hampton. That's the New Yorker radio hour from WNYC studios. Listen, you get your podcast. You told me the other day that McConnell got Trump elected. What did you mean by that? I strongly believe this that Mitch McConnell played a bigger role in Trump's election than just about anyone in this whole bunch of different ways in which he he made this happen. If you go back to his first of all his defense of big money in politics. Mitch McConnell, the one issue. He cares about more than any other is campaign, finance, and and preventing any limits on big money and politics because he realizes that he needs himself needs money to win in his party needs money to win. And so to the extent that he's defended big money in politics. He's played a huge role in discount of distrust that people have for politics because of all the money and politics on top of that he played a huge role in the rise of tea party. Right. The last two years, which Donald Trump and just kind of capitalized on and McConnell. Fueled resentment because by leading such a strong obstruction to Brock Obama just such a cross the board intransigent stance against Obama that the Democrats when they are in power in two thousand eight nine and ten in. So you have Democrats casting these party line votes? You have been disorder of resentful. Right seeing that as you know, quote, jamming things down our throats, and we're off to the races with the tea party so much McConnell health fuel that. But then most directly, of course, he brought us. Trump by blocking Maryland's nomination, refusing to even hear Maryland's nomination, which then for which then gave Republican voters who were very wary or even you know, kind of disgusted with Donald Trump in excuse to vote for him to make sure that that incident Scalia seat stayed with Republicans. And then finally he brought us Trump by successfully blocking frock Obama's desire to make the public aware of of Russian. Interference in the election. So always different ways he really just played in in extraordinary role in putting Trump his objections to a bomb were more than just idiological. You make this point in the book that there would there's this deep personal animus that impart led to his absolute intransigence to do anything that could possibly help Obama. Yes. He definitely saw bama's kind of punk. I mean, this this guy who comes into the Senate in two thousand four and makes clear pretty quickly that he's kind of bored by the Senate, the Senate of courses in Mitch McConnell's mind is you know, the all end all American solution. Mc McConnell loves the Senate of is now done so much to degrade it and all these different ways. But to have this young guy come in into role as is and then be off to the races running for president. I think in McConnell's mind definitely cast Brock Obama as kind of a whipper. Snapper needed to be reined in but more than that. I think the real reason for McConnell's transitions against Obama was more of a tactical thing McConnell figured out that if you completely block everything Democrats are trying to do in create this massive gridlock in Washington and make Washington completely broken. The bad is going to hurt the Democrats far more than the Republicans. So if you make things look completely broken people are gonna blame the Democrats for that. Because they're the ones that should be getting things done there in the White House. Second of all the Democrats are the party that believes in functioning strong federal government. And so if you make the government looks look broken it undermines the whole democratic fluffy. And finally it personally undermines Brock Obama because his whole stick his whole message was that he was going to bring us all together. No, more red and blue America in seal if you can make that sort of obviously fail than you. Visit upon Brock Obama, very kind of personal. Earlier in the image of a personal failure. In twenty ten. George Packer wrote a very influential piece for the New Yorker about dysfunction in the Senate after Obama's election, and he broke then that one of the mysteries was how McConnell had been able to keep his members in line on vote after vote including really moderate members. Susan Collins of Maine, Richard Lugar of Indiana at the time, George Voinovich of Ohio. I just want you to elaborate a little bit more on these kind of strong arm tactics hadn't how he has done that. Well, he was he was very good at figuring out of the trade to keep each individual member in line with in different ways. So for instance, Chuck Grassley was very key person in two thousand nine when the Democrats are pushing ObamaCare if you were called the democrat spent months trying to come up with some kind of bipartisan reform plan. Chuck Grassley are men's pressure from both sides because he's really is friends with for his longtime friends with Max Baucus, the democrat from Montana who's trying to work something out with him around healthcare reform, but the same time he's getting a lot of pressure from each McConnell, not to cut any kind of deal one way that McConnell's able to threaten him is to hold out the possibility of removing him from his sonority from the finance committee. The very powerful committees in the Senate he can also raise the possibility of a primary challenge in Iowa. They, you know, they tried this whole thing out for months all these meetings around trying to come up with some kind of bipartisan deal. And and it all comes to not and not only does it come to not because it's dragged on for so long the longer these things drag out, the more you make the Bill seem in the public side, kind of a tarnished kind of broken messy thing, and that was McConnell's other great intuition that if you can just drag these these things out and make a look like you're working on some kind of deal you're going to drag it way down in public perception. And that's exactly what happened with ObamaCare, but one of the mysteries here to me is this is someone who studies the history of the Senate very closely. He prides himself on that. He has great reverence. He says for this body, which traditionally has worked in a bipartisan way, that's how the Senate is supposed to work. Whereas now, it's normal for a handful of senators sometimes representing maybe ten or twenty percent of the country's population to hold everything up. And he is completely complicit in that. And leading the way he's totally complicit. He is. He has played a far bigger role in this transformation of the Senate into what you just described than anybody. Yes, there been all these different tit for tat that we've had over the last few years around uses the filibuster to block additional nominations, and we can debate until the cows come home about the faults in that whole back and forth. But if you look in quantifiably where this all started who took the structure in the in the use of the filibuster and other blocking tactics to whole new levels. It was Mitch McConnell, and you're absolutely right that he has gotten away with it despite having posed as all these years as the ultimate guard the Senate, and he's gone away with that for many years now in Washington, partly because the press the Washington press has kept kind of buying his line that he is the garden of the institution while the same time. He's he's just been devastating it. It's took me this week. There were these two dramas playing out on either side of the Atlantic Ocean to government shutdown and Washington and prime minister. Theresa May's agonies in London over Brexit. How have two of the world's most powerful democracies? Come to this. So at one level, I think we have to keep in mind that with what happened in both places was kind of a fluke. Donald Trump was elected president through incredible luck of the map sort of how the votes broke down on the map. And of course, with the Mets help of of James Komi in comas letter on the Clinton emails, which believe unquestionably. You know, elected. That'll Trump got elected in practice. Brexit happened. It was close as it wasn't both countries. Because both countries I believe you have a really growing problem of what I called regional inequality where you have these immense concentrations of wealth in certain parts of the country, and there's just incredible resentment resulting from that in other parts of the country in my mind that is the real story that binds together what's happened in England. And here is that we have this real problem of this regional concentration of wealth. Do you get the sense that the Democrats has they sort themselves out for the twenty twenty elections recognize that and are they beginning to explore ways of constructively dealing with it. I believe that most of them recognize it some of them more than others. So you have people share at Brown who who get it very kind of instinctively because they're from the places that are being left behind, and I think and others like. List with Warren, get it at a more kind of intellectual level where she's been leading the way on on sort of a new on reviving the antitrust movement and taking monopoly, and she gets that one of the big reasons behind this concentration of wealth regional concentration of wealth is that we have a concentration of wealth and certain companies. But, but I think other Democrats are still coming around to the slowly twenty Democrats democratic officials also voters still think you can kind of skate by on this problem because Democrats will probably win the next presidential election of now one the house did this Democrats demographic vantage nationwide is going to keep moving in their favor. But what this leaves out is that the Democrats still have a massive problem. The Senate we're gonna have a problem center for years to come which this regional concentration is a big part of you. If Democrats are gonna keep running up their margins in New York in in California. And but as. Doesn't do any good in the Senate? You've already got those states in the Senate, though states bring you as many senators as the Dakotas. So Hugh voters crossing party lines these days, right? So if you've lost the chance to hold sense seats in places like Missouri in Indiana and North Dakota as we saw in this last election, where the Democrats lost although seats, you're it just really really hard to see how you're going to win back the Senate or hold it in any kind of long-term way. Well, you talked earlier though, about McConnell being quite unpopular with his own constituencies up for reelection in twenty twenty what are the chances that he could be defeated? Well, as always he's not as secure as you'd expect them to be the last time, it actually there was a pretty solid opponent there in the state of fairly peeling secretary state McConnell ended up winning fairly handily with just this massive natural that he had which included a lot of dark money that we still don't know the sources of you know, it could depend quite a lot on how things play out with this fight. Now, he really is in a real bind on the shutdown fight because people are getting more and more upset around the country about this complete breakdown. And I could see if someone can run in Kentucky in tap into that. It's just his his utter failure to step up as the country needs to now until the president that needs to back down on this that could be real vulnerability. And he knows it. This is he's a real he's he's in really tough spot. He's worried on the one hand about cutting a deal with the PLO see that could open them up on the right? And he's worried about general election. Challenge tap into people's anger about his not doing his job. Thanks so much. Thank you. Alec McGillis is contributor to the New Yorker, and the author of the Senic the political education of Mitch McConnell. This has been the political scene from the New Yorker, you can subscribe to this and other New Yorker podcast by searching for the New Yorker and your podcast app and find more political analysis and commentary New Yorker dot com. Feel free to rate and review the political scene on apple podcasts. Our theme music is by Russell Espy. This program is produced by Alex, Barron and Hanno Eleni for New Yorker dot com. I'm Dorothy Wickham.
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