Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham on the evolution of Abraham Lincoln's moral principles and political leadership -- and what the era of Lincoln can teach us about the state of our democracy today.
Morning-after analysis of primaries in seven states and the District of Columbia. What contests between mainstream Republican candidates and tea party activists signal about voter sentiment ahead of the midterm elections in November.
- Donna Brazile Democratic strategist; adjunct professor at Georgetown University; nationally syndicated columnist.
- David Keene Chairman of the American Conservative Union and a columnist for The Hill.
- Amy Walter Political director, ABC News.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The Republican establishment took some hits in yesterday's primary elections. A Tea Party-backed U.S. Senate candidate in Delaware upset a nine term Republican congressman. And a candidate for governor of New York, supported by the Tea Party, defeated a GOP favorite. It was the last major round of primaries before midterm elections in November.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me in the studio for analysis of the elections and insights about what to watch for in the weeks ahead, Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile, David Keene of the American Conservative Union and Amy Walter of ABC News. Do join us. I'm sure you have your own thoughts, comments. Call us on 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us on Facebook. Send us a tweet. Good morning, everybody. Good to have you here.
MS. AMY WALTERThank you.
MS. DONNA BRAZILEThank you.
REHMDonna Brazile, what was the most surprising outcome in your book?
BRAZILENo question that Delaware was another unpredictable race where the Republicans establishment put forward a candidate, Mike Castle, and he was defeated by an insurgent Republican Tea Party-backed candidate. Sarah Palin has proven to be one of the most effective campaigners this season because it looks as though every time she gets involved in a race, she stirs things up.
MR. DAVID KEENEWell, she does stir things up. But New Hampshire results will tell us whether she wins every time because she endorsed Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, who is in an undetermined race with Ovide Lamontagne of a New Hampshire family that's been involved in politics for a long time. So that will -- that remains to be seen. But this -- if Lamontagne wins that primary in New Hampshire, it will be the ninth race this year in which the National Republican Senatorial Committee's favored or endorsed candidate was upset for the nomination, which tells you something about the attitude about -- among Republicans about the party establishment.
REHMAmy Walter, Carl Paladino, who defeated Lazio in New York City, said his win indicates a, quote, "people's revolution is underway." Is that how you see it?
WALTERIt's very interesting. He ran, literally, as the I'm mad as hell candidate. And there are signs all over the state -- long signs with that slogan. He said he was going to take a baseball bat to Albany. And in a state that has had major corruption issues, in Albany, that's gridlocked up there, major budget problems, that's -- it's a pretty appealing message. Now, Carl Paladino, unlike the sort of average person, also has lots and lots of money, which he put into that campaign and really outspent Lazio. But he is another outsider candidate who has sort of captured the imagination of a frustrated electorate.
WALTERI do want to go back to something that both of these guys pointed out about the Tea Party upsets. I mean, this was -- the Delaware thing was certainly a surprise. It wasn't a shock in the way Alaska was 'cause we sort of saw this building up, and we could see it coming. But it's the most consequential of any of the primary results because O'Donnell -- Christine O'Donnell, the Republican nominee, is a much, much weaker candidate in the general election.
WALTERIn fact, everybody -- all the prognosticators around D.C. have already moved this race from leaning Republican to either leaning or likely Democrat. And so this was supposed to be one of those gimmes that Republicans were going to take to the bank. It was the one of the hope -- they were hoping for 10 seats to -- that's what they need to flip control of the Senate. You got to pretty much take that one off the table, and that takes possibility of control off the table as well.
REHMDavid Keene, as chair of the American Conservative Union, tell us why so many conservative voters are disenchanted with mainstream Republicans.
KEENEWell, during the Bush years and during the period when Republicans controlled the Congress, many, many conservatives became more and more disaffected with -- not the stated beliefs of the people they were electing -- but the performance of those people once they got into office. And this time around, with the -- with sort of the reaction to the Obama administration and the Democratic leadership's overreach after the 2008 election, and their sense that the economy was headed for a cliff, they've gotten both enervated and fearful. And they're out there. They want to be -- they want to participate. They want to change things. But they're not sure that many of the Republicans, the traditional Republicans who are appealing to them for their votes, deserve those votes. And so they're looking for new people. I like -- two things. All the -- you know, we talk about the Tea Party and trends and all of that. New York is sort of sui generis in a way.
KEENEI mean, Paladino -- a lot of people who didn't like Rick -- I happen to have supported Rick in that primary -- but is a rich guy who wants to hold public office. That's not going to have a whole lot of effect, I don't think, in the general in New York. But there are two ways in which that Delaware race is consequential. One is that it does skew the potential outcome -- and Karl Rove may have been correct when he said last night on television that it moved the Republican possibility from an eight to nine seat pick-up, to a seven to eight seat pick-up -- but consequential in another way in that the establishment having lost before the votes were counted, announced that they were going to destroy this one.
KEENEAnd I think what was surprising in Delaware was the margin, not the outcome. And that margin, I think, was accounted for by the fact that when Christine O'Donnell, who I don't know, was moving up, the Republican establishment decided to go after her full-tilt in a vicious and personal way. And I think there was a backlash because it was all these old guys who claimed the right to lead the party because they had always led the party, beating up on this little girl curled up in the corner. And I think that was the cause for the margin.
REHMI wouldn't call her a girl, David. Donna.
BRAZILENo, no, no. That -- no -- she's not a little girl. She's, in fact, a very tough, polished candidate. She has run before. Christine O'Donnell has a record, and people know it in Delaware. And that's one of the reasons why, I think, Republican establishment is very concerned today because they know that she has a track record of failing to reach out to independents and failing to reach out to moderate, to conservative Democrats, and so this is likely a loss with the Republican establishment. But the Republicans have a lot of other internal problems. If you look across the country this past primary season, we've noticed a, you know, a trend. John McCain had a very tough primary. His opponent, Mr. Hayworth, has not endorsed to him.
BRAZILELisa Murkowski is still contemplating Alaska running as a right wing candidate, you know, and they have not come back together. Down in Florida, Mr. McCallum has not endorsed Mr. Scott. And so while the Tea Party is rallying against Washington, rallying against the Republican establishment, they really have not put together a cohesive strategy to reach out to independents and others who might provide the margin to victory. That's why I think, today, Democrats -- the morning after -- they're feeling quite relieved that we've come out of this primary season unified. We have good candidates. We have good -- we have a lot of money in the bank. And we're ready to take on the so-called Tea Party who -- I believe they've read the mood of the country in a way that will hurt the Republicans this fall.
REHMDonna Brazile, she's the...
KEENEDream on, Donna.
REHM...Democratic strategist and adjunct professor at Georgetown University. She's also a nationally syndicated columnist. David Keene is chair of the American Conservative Union, a columnist for The Hill. Amy Walter is political director of ABC News. Do join us, 800-433-8850. I'll look forward to hearing you. Amy Walter, when you look at some of the other primaries --let's talk about what happened right here in Washington, D.C.
WALTERRight. Well there -- as far as I know, there wasn't a Tea Party involved in this city. But it felt like that in the sense that there was an establishment candidate who was defeated by somebody who, in some ways, was not part -- is not an outsider either. Vincent Gray isn't exactly brand-new to the scene. He's not somebody that people don't know. But I think there is clearly a frustration that is out there among voters, even in places where it seems from the outside that things are going well. And I think this also what the race to me, highlighted was -- just, like, the very obvious division in the city between certain parts of the city. All right. So where you live gives you a perspective very much on how you feel about the mayor. And I'm sure there are plenty of people who live out in the suburbs who had a very different perspective of what people in the District of Columbia should do as opposed to what people in the District actually did end up doing.
WALTERBut I think that Adrian Fenty -- despite the fact that the city is really doing pretty well -- you know, certainly turned off a lot of folks. There's a lot of concern, especially among African-American voters about the fact that he didn't seem as concerned about their parts of the city. Education reform, while appealing to many voters, not as appealing to folks, especially those who are in the middle of the system right now, involved in the system, have kids in the system. So, you know, it was a controversial mayor at a time of great anxiety, and you get those results.
REHMDoes that sum it up, Donna?
BRAZILEYeah, there's no question that we have a divide in Washington, D.C. between the haves and have-nots -- surprise, surprise, surprise. Adrian Fenty -- and let me just say -- was my former intern when I worked on the Hill for Congressman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who also won her reelection last night. But he was seen as a very effective mayor. I mean, he was very effective. I can tell you, you know, from potholes to, you know, cleaning up some of the corruption in D.C. government -- he made the trains run on time, but he's -- he was a lousy politician. This is a guy who ran by knocking on every door across the city, and then he governed as if he didn't want to talk to people. He didn't want to listen to people. He didn't care about what people actually were thinking. And so there's a perception amongst some in the city that the mayor lost touch with the community that really elected him four years ago.
KEENELike the president and the country.
REHM...Brazile, Democratic strategist, adjunct professor...
BRAZILEI hope not.
REHM...at Georgetown University. Short break, and we'll be right back.
REHMAnd we are back with Amy Walter. She is political director for ABC News. Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist, adjunct professor at Georgetown University and nationally syndicated columnist. David Keene, chair of the American Conservative Union. He's a columnist for The Hill. We're going to open the phones very shortly. I want to hear a few more comments. David Keene was talking about what happened in New Hampshire, which is still sort of shaky.
REHMAmy, outline that for us.
WALTERWell, we are -- we're still waiting for the final results to come in. Apparently, carrier pigeons, I think, are bringing the votes to be counted in the state of New Hampshire. But Kelly Ayotte, who has the unique distinction of being the establishment candidate and the Sarah Palin-backed candidate, was up by just about 900 votes or so. So the thinking is, by the middle of today, we may have an answer as to what the final outcome is, or maybe a recount. This was another place where -- and I think this is going to -- what's going to be fascinating as we move forward. We can get into a whole discussion now about how credible some of these candidates are in the general election. But let's just say a lot of them do end up winning and going to Congress. That's going to set up...
REHMA lot of the Tea Party...
WALTEROf the Tea Party candidates.
WALTERSorry. If they -- you know, this is going to create a very fascinating dynamic for the leadership in the Senate -- Mitch McConnell, who is the leader right now in the Senate, how he keeps this group together. You have Jim DeMint, who is -- sort of sees himself as the self-styled leader of the Tea Party movement within the Republican caucus in the Senate. He has backed Ovide Lamontagne, who -- David mentioned that just a moment ago -- whereas the establishment in Washington backed Kelly Ayotte. He also backed Christine O'Donnell. There's a lot of frustration now from Republican strategists that, you know, Jim DeMint's meddling in these events has put -- not only put forward more conservative candidates who might not win, but could bring people to the Senate who could be very difficult to predict and could create more chaos once they get here.
REHMHow much do last night's results reflect Sarah Palin's power, Donna Brazile?
BRAZILEOh, there's no question. I mean, she brings, not only national media attention to the race, she brings her brand of conservatism, her credibility as a conservative into play. And remember, she is still seen as an -- she's an energizer. She energizes the Republican right like no one else, I think, at this point in the Republican Party. So she's a net-plus Republican during the primary season. I don't know how effective she'll be in the general election when more independents are at play. And really, Palin may have the effect of rallying the disaffected Democrats and those who are, right now, not excited about voting. An endorsement by Palin, a hand-picked candidate by Sarah Palin, might energize Democrats this fall.
KEENEWell, I think Donna's right about Sarah Palin's influence in the primaries precisely because there are a lot of people she has been able to energize. But she has to, you know, to make her presence known in races where it's credible. The example on the other side is the governor's race in Maryland...
KEENE...where she endorsed somebody who wasn't known, had no money, nobody else was supporting and was handily defeated by former Gov. Urlich. So, you know, yes. She has influence, and I'm sure that Urlich's opponent did better than he might have because he had Sarah's endorsement, but not much better. So...
KEENE...you know, reality and what you can bring to the race are things that have to be counted in.
WALTERYeah, and I think it's important -- just one quick thing -- to see if she can put her money where her mouth is here, which is, if you're Christine O'Donnell, and you got her support in the primary, is she going to come raise money for you in the general election? Is Jim DeMint going to help raise money for her in the general election? Will she go and campaign for a lot of these candidates in the general election? It's a very different -- that's a very different (word?) .
KEENEBut she has campaigned for some of them. But, no, that is -- they're going to be out there, not just the ones she's endorsed, but many of the ones that she hasn't endorsed...
KEENE...for the good things that Donna said about her because she can energize their people and raise money for them. And the question is...
KEENE...how much of that will she do?
REHMHere's an e-mail from Charlie in Martha's Vineyard. "If some of the Tea Party victories are being called upsets, what does this tell us about political polls? Do yesterday's results show whether we can trust poll predictions, especially as they relate to predictions of Democrats' supposed doom in the upcoming general election?" Amy.
WALTERVery, very, very good point. There are a lot of polls out there, and we have to be very careful about them.
WALTERThat said, there was one -- there is really only one public poll recently in Delaware that came out. It was something called an automatic dial poll. It's a robo-poll. You get a recorded message. There are a lot of people who say those are not very good at predicting outcomes. However, it was the one poll...
KEENEI mean, other pollsters don't do that.
WALTEROther pollsters, right. However, it did...
WALTER...it did have O'Donnell ahead by a couple of points. And that's where people started to say, maybe this is real. When you talk to the pollsters who are involved in the Murkowski race, they will tell you their internal polling showed it getting close -- you know, those folks who are involved in that campaign. So...
KEENEThat was the campaign that didn't listen.
WALTERThat's right. So I think that's fair. But I agree with the caller in that we have to be very careful about looking at one poll and projecting out simply from that. We have to look at a whole series of polls. And I think what we're seeing about Democrats in the polling, from respective pollsters -- Gallup, of course the ABC News poll, NBC, et cetera -- is there is one constant there, and it's this. The first is, Republicans much more enthusiastic than Democrats. We obviously are seeing this in primaries as well. The second, more people saying, especially those who say they're enthusiastic, saying they're going to vote for a Republican over a Democrat in the race for Congress.
WALTERAnd finally the really deep frustration that voters have for Washington and the status quo. Now, this makes for an interesting crosscurrents, as we're seeing the anti-status quo means that they're just as happy -- Republicans are just as happy to throw out their incumbent as some voters may be about throwing out Democrats. But when it comes down to a general election, the incumbent party is Democrat, and voters are going to have a choice between the Democrat and the Republican. And that sets up very well for Republican Party.
BRAZILEThat's true. That's true.
BRAZILEThere's no limit to the surprises in predictability of this electoral season. And polls should be used as strategic instruments...
BRAZILE...to gauge voters' mood. In this case, they are upset. There's a lot of anxiety. But if any candidate out there is relying on a pollster to guide them to victory, let me just tell you...
KEENEThey should win anyway.
BRAZILEThat's right. They -- this is one of those elections, Diane, where I really think that candidates got to just throw...
BRAZILE...everything out the playbook...
BRAZILE...and go out there and be among the people.
REHMBut what does that mean, throw everything out the playbook?
BRAZILEThis is not a cookie-cutter campaign here. I mean, voters -- they're in this mood where they really want to hear. They want to listen. They are fed up with Washington. They are fed up with the status quo. They may not like Democrats, but they like -- they dislike Republicans, too. It's one of those -- it's one of these election cycles where you really just got to get out there and mix it up with the people and not rely on the old playbook.
KEENEI think Donna is right about that, in defense of pollsters. I agreed with everything. In a time of sort of popular unrest and popular disaffection and involvement, all of these poll outcomes are dependent on turnout.
KEENEAnd it's almost impossible this year to predict in individual races what the turnout is going to be. So without saying that they're all a bunch of dummies who don't know how to take a poll, they all are a bunch of people who make guesses that are often wrong and therefore their results are wrong.
REHMBut, David, going back to the point that Amy was making about what happens if some of these Tea Party candidates do get to Congress, and especially into the Senate, what kind of...
KEENEIt's going to be...
REHM...operation is that going to make for?
KEENEIt's going to be a very different Republican caucus, regardless of how many of them make it...
KEENE...because a lot of them are going to make it, or at least a lot of non-establishment challengers -- Utah, Colorado -- you know, places where people who were not part of the establishment won the party nomination and may win the general election. Mitch McConnell is a pretty smart guy. And I think you'll see a different Mitch McConnell with that caucus than you did with the caucus that he had this time because Senate leaders count votes, not necessarily the votes out in the country, but the votes in their caucus.
KEENEIf he doesn't do that and doesn't change, then you would have two parties in the caucus. You'd have the McConnell party or the establishment party, and you'd have the DeMint party. I would be willing to predict that's not going to happen. I would be willing to suggest that Mitch McConnell will know how to lead that new caucus as well as he has the last.
WALTERLet's see. You know, listen. It's very different to run as a change candidate on the campaign trail and then try to keep that anti-establishment credential once you get to Washington.
REHMAnd here's a message on Facebook from Liz. "If the Tea Party thinks it's so different, if they truly feel they have a genuine platform, then why don't they form an actual political party?"
KEENEI don't think they care about that.
REHMThey don't care about that?
KEENEWell, that's not what they're about. I mean, they...
REHMWhat are they about?
KEENEThey care very much about the direction of the country. They're very upset with what they see as the fiscal situation that's out of control. They want -- go ahead.
REHMLet me stop you right there, David, because this is from Jerry in O'Fallon, Mo., who says, "I know it seems like ancient history, but more interesting than last night's results to me is the primary win by Tea Party candidate Joe Miller in Alaska. How can someone claim to be for smaller government representing a state that receives $7 in federal spending for every $1 it returns in federal taxes?"
KEENEWell, actually in defense of Joe Miller, one of the criticisms of him in Alaska during this primary was, in fact, that he's taken positions that he doesn't intend to come to Washington just to get money for Alaska, and he's going to operate differently. And they're saying, well, how can you be a senator from Alaska if you're not going to do what Ted Stevens did for us, which is to loot the treasury in favor of our voters? I think, Diane, that what the Tea Party people reflect, and what a lot of other things have reflected in recent months, is that popular opinion on these questions is changing. You know, remember back to the fight over health care when Ben Nelson got what they called the -- whatever they -- the corn husker thing?
REHMYeah, yeah, yeah.
KEENEIn the 1960s, that was a heck of a deal for Nebraska. I think he went home expecting to be carried on everyone's shoulders for cutting a deal that no other state was able to cut. He went home and lost 30 points in the polls in a week because they said, we can't do this anymore. Chris Christie in New Jersey is taking positions that he wouldn't have taken three years ago because public attitudes have changed. And, I think, what the voters are saying is you can't operate as you always have operated because the situation has changed, and we have changed.
WALTERWell -- and let's see if that's really true. I mean, if -- the number one thing these folks then are going to have to come to Washington and do is, one, they would talk a lot about deficit reduction. We know -- all know what that means, which is have real, real entitlement reform.
WALTERAnd I will bet you that votes on Social Security and Medicare are still going to get kicked down the road, that fundamentally there is still -- for as much as voters say they want change, and they want -- I think those things are still seen as...
KEENEThese things are tough.
KEENEAnd whether they accomplish them or not is another question, but that's what the public wants.
BRAZILEBut what frustrates many self-identified liberals, like myself, is that under the Republican leadership that got it to Congress for so many years -- and, of course, the White House -- we saw reckless spending. We saw the budget deficit double. We saw the country go into two wars. Borrow money to fight those wars. Tax cuts that we had to borrow money for. And all of a sudden, you have a Tea Party movement that is against spending in Washington, D.C. when it was many of their so-called leaders -- because I associate the Tea Party with the Republican Party -- that really got us in this mess in the first place.
KEENEThat's why Mike Castle was retired last night, Donna.
REHMDavid Keene. He is chair...
BRAZILEA moderate Republican.
REHM...of the American Conservative Union. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're going to open the phones now. Headphones, please, 800-433-8850. First, to Osage Beach, Mo. Good morning, Jeff. You're on the air.
JEFFHi, Diane. It's just a great pleasure to be talking with you.
JEFFYou know, I have two points. The first is that, you know, the -- I think the Democrats are intellectualizing the hunger, the joblessness and the desperation on the part of the population, and they need to start getting more gut feelings about people out there. And they have to have an answer to the Tea Party movement or, believe me, this is going to take over for the simple virtue of the fact that people are tired of that government. And this is a factor that brings people together.
REHMAll right, sir. Thanks for calling. Donna Brazile, Democrats have to answer. They've got to do something.
BRAZILEYou know, I look at it this way, Diane. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and Barack Obama and the rest of the Democrats came into Washington, D.C., saw the economy going off the cliff and decided, you know, this is not about the next election. It's about getting things done, getting it fixed and trying to use taxpayers' money to invest and getting this economy going again. Now, many Americans did not like the fact that under President Bush we had to bail out the banks. We had to bail out Wall Street. We had to bail out the auto industry. And President Obama, of course, kept many of the Bush initiatives in that regard as well as the two wars and the tax cuts. So he is now a big liberal because he basically kept some of these programs intact that George Bush and the Republicans initiated.
BRAZILEIt's hard to tell what direction to go in when everybody is pointing fingers about how we got into this mess. The truth is that we're not going to come together as a country -- whether we're a Tea Party or whatever we want to identify -- unless we believe that this country still has to get itself together in terms of economic growth and finding a path back to prosperity. That is what -- what's missing in D.C. right now is leadership. We don't have it. We just don't have it. We've got a lot of people that likes to posture and grandstand and -- but it's time that we come together as one country to figure out how we solve these problems in a common sense way without driving up the deficit. But also we got to invest in the future.
REHMWhat do you think Democrats need to do now more than what they've done in the past?
BRAZILEWell, first of all, stop spending money unless you can explain where it's going, okay? I'm one of these people that if I'm going to spend a dollar, I'm going to tell you how I spent it and why I spent it and I'm going to justify. I think we spent a lot of money -- and I'm not criticizing the Democrats. I'm saying we spent this money to try to do good, to try to get this economy back on its feet, but we haven't explained it. So the American people are frustrated. They're sitting around, saying, look, I'm in debt. I got credit card debt. I can't pay for this. I can't go out anymore. And look at those folks in Washington. They're spending like wild sailors. So I think the Democrats...
KEENEAnd it hasn't worked, Donna.
BRAZILEWell that's a -- I disagree there because you and I both -- David, when I drove up here to see Diane and all of you guys, I saw the -- I saw these, you know, all of these different construction projects. It's working. We got first responders working. We got teachers back working. No. It wasn't enough, but I do believe that we would be in worse shape had we not invested in those critical infrastructure programs a year ago.
REHMDonna Brazile. She is a Democratic strategist, adjunct professor at Georgetown University. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, more of your thoughts through your calls, your e-mails, your faxes, your Facebook messages and your tweets.
REHMAnd welcome back. Before we go back to the phones, I want to ask you, Amy Walter, about Charlie Rangel in New York.
WALTERCharlie Rangel, who's had some ethics troubles well known over the course of this summer, pretty easily won reelection. He had -- I'm sorry, not reelection, won his primary contest. You know, I think we had looked at this initially thinking that perhaps because of the scandal surrounding him, he might have some troubles coming back. But fundamentally, I don't think his opponent really made a very good case either.
WALTERAnd look, bottom line, you know, we've talked a lot about the nationalization of these elections. In many cases, there still was an all politics is local. And so it's -- when you look in many of these house races, you know, what's interesting is we saw the Tea Party upset in Delaware and maybe in New Hampshire. But Charlie Bass, who's a moderate, who lost in 2006, who would, by any means, be, you know, considered one of the few moderate Republicans in Congress, won his primary to try to come back to get his seat. So I think, you know, you kind of have to remember that, yes, we like to blow this up and say the national politics are driving this. But you still have local people making their decisions.
REHMDonna Brazile, Charlie Rangel.
BRAZILEWell, you know, I have known Mr. Rangel for many years, and he's a fighter. He will fight. He's determined to clear his name and -- before the House. And he's determined to remind voters that for all these many years, he's been a great public servant. He's been a champion for their issues. And with Bill Clinton and many other leading Democrats out there campaigning for him up in Harlem, Mr. Rangel, I believe, came back. He's coming back to Washington, D.C. -- unless he has a significant challenge in the general election -- so that he is going to clear his name.
REHMHere is an e-mail from -- let's see -- Janice who says, "The Republican Party is reaping what it has sown when Republican leaders allowed the animosity, falsehoods, innuendo and divisiveness of Gingrich, Cheney, Rove and Fox News to smear anyone who threatened their power. They fend the far right conservatives that large corporations can finance and manipulated. They've created a force that's destroying their party." David.
KEENEWell, there's so much of that that I disagree with that it would take hours to go into it. But the fact is that what we have is not something manufactured by anybody. We have an appreciation out in the country of the fact that its -- that the people's leaders are not doing what they're elected to do and that the country is off-track. All you have to do is look at any poll of Republicans, conservatives, independents, and they're upset at the direction the country is going. And they want to do something about it. In the Democratic system, that's what they're supposed to do.
REHMHere's an e-mail from our, I guess, from our web. Says, "Everyone is talking about how Americans are fed up with Washington status quo, but no one is talking about changing the system that frustrates us. With the redrawing of Congressional Districts, the huge amounts of money candidates need to run, I truly believe if we were to change every single player, we'll still get the same results. We have to change the game. The Tea Party represents what, I think, is feel-good frustration, but they're the opposite of the consensus we need to build to move this country forward." Amy.
WALTERVery, very well said.
WALTERAnd I want to build on -- Donna made this point as well -- that just, you know, it's the frustration about the lack of leadership in Washington. Look, the system is, in many ways, not equipped to handle some of the issues that have been put on its plate. But they have to. And in this time of the million tweets a minute and information overload and instant feedback, leaders have to be willing to put that aside and say, we need to do what's good for the country regardless of anything else. I think there is some very important points, though, to make. And Allstate National Journal polling came out this week that, I think, had some fascinating looks at the American public's views on government as well as the role that government and institution should be playing in the economy.
WALTERThe first thing is, what's different about this election year is that it's not just that voters are frustrated with Washington, they hate all establishments. They don't like banks. They don't like corporations. They don't trust anybody. They trust themselves, period. This could be very dangerous when you think about -- this is a time when Americans can kind of get very insulator and -- insulated and isolated, which is interesting. The other thing is when they ask voters, do you think government's a problem or government's a solution or something in between? Thirty-five percent have the government's always the problem, not the solution. But the other two-thirds either think that they want activist government. Thirty-three percent say, I want government to have a role in the economy. I just don't think they can do it effectively.
REHMHmm. Mm hmm.
WALTERWhat that says to me is two-thirds of people in this country want government to have role in the economy and in making things better, but half of those people think government is not doing it well. I don't think people hate government. They hate incompetent government.
WALTERAnd right, that's what they've been getting.
REHMAll right. To Lafayette, La.
BRAZILEWho dat, hello.
REHMGood morning, Graham.
BRAZILEYeah, who dat.
REHMYou're on the air.
GRAHAMHey, guys, how you doing? Good morning.
GRAHAMI'd like to just say, who dat, of course. But I think that this -- there's probably a bigger scene at work here. And that's the fact that a lot of people, like myself -- I'm a former airline pilot, and I used to talk to a lot of politicians flying to Atlantic corridor between Washington and New York. And I got to yuck it up with a lot of politicians and just kind of get in their heads just to find out how comfortable they were getting being lifelong politicians in Washington.
GRAHAMAnd I think that there's a lot of people, especially like myself who sit around here -- and we reach out and try to help our neighbors as much as we can. And we can't help but think that the egoic stance of somebody who is arrogant enough to stay in Washington for 45 years. I don't understand how a politician can say, oh, I'm going to be a lifelong politician. They get comfortable up there. And I think that the Tea Party movement, which I don't really stand for. I'm more of an independent. I think change -- I mean, I think dichotomy, and I think that different views is a wonderful thing for our Earth. We should, you know, I think we can all agree to disagree and let that be a good thing. But I think in the same sense, we want to see new blood in Washington about every eight years. And why don't we ever talk about term limits for Congressmen and Senators?
KEENEWell, the Republicans talked about term limits until they became the majority.
KEENEPoliticians share one view, and that is that they ought to be where they are because they're smarter than everybody else. And every once in a while, the public says, no, you're not. You know, I admired Trent Lott when he was in office. He's a good friend of mine. He's the only Democrat--he was originally going to run as a Democrat who I ever contributed to. He recently said, you know, he was concerned about these outside candidates. He said, we have to surround them when they get to Washington and make them part of the system. That's what the public doesn't want, and this is a seductive city. People come here to change it. And then after they're here a couple of years, they go home to explain why it's really not in need of change, you know.
KEENEAnd then after a while, they don't even bother to do that. And then in districts that are contestable, often times, they get thrown out. And this is regardless of party.
BRAZILEWe need civility. I mean, that's one of the missing ingredients in our politics today. It's not just -- it's not the people we bring to Washington, D.C. Look, I was born and raised in the Deep South not far from where that young man called from. And, you know, we talk to our neighbors. We talk to our friends. I must tell you, I spend at least two, three hours a day calling out Republicans, saying, what are you hearing? What are you talking about? What -- I mean, Mary Matalin and I were e-mailing and tweeting each other until two this morning about the races across the country. So I really do believe that we -- somehow when people come to Washington, David, and Amy and Diane, they forget that they're Americans, that they are people. And they become partisans, and that's a bad thing, I think, in this environment.
REHMAll right. To Rockford, Ill. Good morning, Maurice.
MAURICEI'm a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, and I can't think of anything more entrenched than the GOP in Washington. I think I'm all for the Tea Party movement. It's grassroots, and that's what's important now -- grassroots. It's new blood I say, yes. I believe the Democrats should think about new blood, too, because there's plenty of entrenched, you know, Democrats over in Washington, too. There ought to be time limits. They get too comfortable. They get too important. They get -- their heads get just too big, you know what I mean?
REHMAnd that's the attitude.
WALTERThat's right. That is.
WALTERThe great irony, though, is if Democrats do lose control of the House, it will be because people who were elected in 2006 and 2008 -- the people who've barely, you know, figured out how the metro works and, you know, where the bathrooms are in the Capitol -- those are the folks that are going to get thrown out. The entrenched incumbents are usually the ones sitting in those safe districts. They are the ones that don't leave. So, you know, it's always hard because -- I think David's right. I -- in my old job, I use to meet with about a hundred or more House candidates a year. And they all -- they came from all, you know, political parties and all sorts of persuasions. But they all fundamentally believed they were going to be different. They're going to come to Washington, and they were going to change things. And I think there are a couple of things to remember. The first is it is an institution, and you do need to get along with everybody, all right. You're not going to just be a lone ranger and solve this yourself. So that is important.
WALTERThe second is, you know, this -- the system is complicated, and that's not easy to get across in a 30-second soundbite. So I think there has to be, on the one hand, an appreciation for it. The system is a little complicated. It's not as easy as it looked from the outside. But going to Donna's point, you can't just do it alone. And you can't just spend all your time beating everybody else up if you want to really get something done.
KEENEAmy's largely correct. But in a wave election like this, there are going to be some people who are going to lose their seats who nobody expected to lose their seats. We -- even before we got to the primaries and elections, for example, David Obi bailed out. He was in trouble. And that's why he retired regardless of what he said after the fact. Your callers from Rockford -- I just want to say I'm from Rockford. My father was president of the labor council there, and he was a lifelong Democrat. But when he ran for office once and lost, he ran as a Republican.
BRAZILEI don't have such conversions in my family.
REHMDonna. Donna, last week you gave Republicans a 50-50 shot at taking over both Houses of Congress. Do you still believe that?
BRAZILEOh, absolutely. It is a wave of election. And I'm -- like most Democrats, I'm worried about the enthusiasm gap. We all know that in off-year elections turnout's low. And unless you reach people where they live, where they eat, where they play and pray, it's very difficult to get them excited about this race. And so for 2010, most Democrats want to run local elections, but we have to nationalize it in order to get surge and base voters back to the polls and, you know, and hopefully, a good number that can stop Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh's handpicked candidates from winning office.
REHMDavid, predictions from you.
KEENEI'd say an 80 percent possibility of taking over the House and a 40 percent of the Senate. And that hasn't changed in the last week either in my mind.
WALTERYeah, my predictions on the Senate definitely changed after last night. So I still think that the Senate stays in Republican control.
WALTERI'm sorry, Democratic control. Sorry.
BRAZILEBite your tongue, girl.
WALTERThank you for that. (unintelligible) stays in Democratic control. The House, I think, right now that Republicans have the advantage.
REHMAmy Walter, political director of ABC News. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go to Andy in Raleigh, N.C. Good morning, you're on the air.
ANDYGood morning. I heard a comment the other day that I thought really made a lot of sense. They said, every two years, a campaign comes around, and it reminds the Democrats to do what the Republicans do every day of every year. I mean that, you know, the Republicans are kind of in perpetual campaign mode. And I want to go back to a question earlier about why doesn't the Tea Party, you know, form its own party. And I think the answer for that is they already have a party. They're all Republicans anyway. I mean, I know that your conservative guy there will disagree with this. But they -- they're just the far right of the Republican Party.
ANDYWhen you got people like Dick Armey and the Cult brothers, you know, behind a lot of this movement, it's an illusion that this is some type of, you know, separate thing. It is still just the far right, as if the Republicans haven't been going far to the right for decades. But now, this thing is like it's really going much faster and much harder to the right. And I will agree also with Karl Rove, but I think he's right on this one, that they really just undermine themselves 'cause when it comes to the general, they are not going to appeal to the mass in the middle, really. When it...
KEENEWell, the election is going to be about the Democratic leadership. It's been stated here before. I find it interesting that there was a poll recently that showed that people who had equal disdain for both parties were going to vote Republicans this fall by about 58 percent. And that tells you something about attitudes out there and about the nature of an off-year election. You know, people try to ride things like the Tea Party movement when things come up. Remember Nancy Pelosi initially said it was a grass-tops movement and that the insurance companies were calling people and telling them to go to these rallies.
KEENEYou know, I've been involved in trying to gear people up and get them involved for years. And I can tell you, unless they're interested, anything you do and any money you spend is irrelevant because people have a way of expressing their views and turning out when they want to. These -- many of these people are Republicans, more of them share Republican attitudes. But there have been polls done at the Tea Party people, and they are not what your caller says they are. They're much more than that.
REHMDonna Brazile, there have been some suggestions that if Republicans win control of the House, they're going to launch an investigation with Obama as the main target. What would they be investigating him for?
BRAZILEWell, first of all, I want to say that overconfidence can be fatal, especially when you still got to get out there and rally people to your cause and get them out to the polls in November. You know, I've heard the same thing. You know, I saw a congressman yesterday -- the other day on CNN. And I say, Congressman, I mean, what are you going to investigate? I mean, what has gone wrong? I mean, do you want to investigate where the stimulus money went, how the tax breaks have worked? I say, is there some malfeasance that I should know about? He said, no. He said, look, I really think that we should just, you know, be able to take a look -- good look around and see if there's anything. But that -- he said that that's not true.
BRAZILEI want to take him at his word. I hope that if Republicans are able to make any incremental gains -- and of course, I don't want them to make any -- I hope that they come back to Washington, D.C. with the idea that they want to get this economy going, that they want to, you know, continue our progress so that we can end the war in Afghanistan, and that they're ready to roll up their sleeves to work with President Obama -- who will still be the president -- to try to continue the reforms that he's put in place on Wall Street, in climate control and education and the rest. I hope that's what Republicans will do.
REHMWhat do they want to investigate?
KEENEI hope they won't pursue the Obama agenda, but Donna is exactly right. When you win, you wake up the next morning thinking the voters want to do everything you want them to do and -- that you want to do. And that's not the fact. Winners tend to overreach, and the Republicans have to come to town in January dedicated to solving these problems. Sure, they have to have oversight. No, they shouldn't go half-cocked in a political vendetta against anyone.
REHMDavid Keene, he's chair of the American Conservative Union. Donna Brazile, Democratic strategist, professor at Georgetown University. Amy Walter, political director of ABC News. Thank you all so much. And thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture and Monique Nazareth. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Dorie Anisman answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information.
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