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Guest Host: Susan Page
In January a Republican president – Donald Trump – will assume office and Republicans will keep control of the House and Senate. But some analysts warn that the future of the GOP is in jeopardy. The campaign exposed deep fissures within the party. Several leading Republicans declared they would not vote for Trump. He lost the popular vote. His base contains a large share of disaffected voters who rallied around his promise to “make America great again.” Whether Trump can fulfill that promise could determine if they stick with him. Join guest host Susan Page for a look at what’s ahead for the Republican Party.
- David Winston President, Winston Group; Republican strategist; CBS News consultant; adviser to the House and Senate Republican leadership for more than a decade
- Eliana Johnson Washington editor, National Review
- Mercedes Schlapp Republican strategist and columnist for the Washington Times; co-founder and principal, Cove Strategies, a governmental and public affairs firm; contributor, Fox News; former media liaison in the George W. Bush administration
MS. SUSAN PAGEThanks for joining us. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. She's at WESA in Pittsburgh on a station visit. On Election Day last week, Republican candidates tapped into widespread discontent to win the White House and keep control of Congress and win over state legislatures across the country. But many Republicans worry about deep division within the party. President-elect Trump already has sparked anger among some with his personnel choices. Notably, he has named Steve Bannon, a leading figure in the white nationalist alt-right movement as his chief White House strategist.
MS. SUSAN PAGEJoining me in the studio to talk about the future of the Republican party, Mercedes Schlapp of Cove Strategies. She's been a Trump supporter since he clinched the nomination. David Winston of Winston Group. He's a Republican strategist who advises many House and Senate Republican leaders. And Eliana Johnson of National Review. Welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show.
MR. DAVID WINSTONGood morning.
MS. MERCEDES SCHLAPPGood morning.
MS. ELIANA JOHNSONGood morning.
PAGEWe invite our listeners to join our conversation. Our toll-free number, 1-800-433-8850. You can send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Facebook or Twitter. Well, yesterday, we did a story -- a show on the future of the Democratic party. It's not hard to understand why Democrats are discouraged since they lost the White House and they didn't gain control of the Senate as they had expected many of them had. But Eliana, Republicans do not seem to be feeling as triumphant as you might have expected given what happened on Election Day. What's happening?
JOHNSONI think Republicans are feeling pretty triumphant and conservatives, in particular, are less alarmed than they had expected to be, given Trump's victory and NeverTrumpers, in particular, the ones I've spoken to are happier than they thought they would be, given Trump's victory. But I do think that this election and Trump's victory marked the end of the time when conservatives controlled the Republican party and the ascent of a populous control of the Republican party.
JOHNSONWe now have populists in control of the White House and conservatives, I think, in control of Congress. And it remains to be seen how that dynamic will play out in the Trump presidency. He hasn't filled out his cabinet and we haven't seen the way that those two branches of government will work together on legislation.
PAGEYour magazine, National Review, didn't endorse Trump. That was the first time in how long that National Review hadn't endorsed the Republican candidate?
JOHNSONYeah, National Review vocally opposed Trump in the Republican primary and didn't endorse any presidential candidate in the general election. The last time that National Review didn't endorse anybody was in 1960 and we didn't -- and we endorsed John Ashbrook in 1972. So it was historic and NR didn't endorse Trump because National Review's flagship magazine of the conservative movement and didn't view Trump as a conservative.
PAGEDavid, do you agree that we now have conservative Republicans in control of Congress and populist Republicans in control of the White House?
WINSTONSort of. I mean, part of it is understanding how we got to this point and I think part of the challenge here for Republicans in Congress, for this White House, for conservatives, is grasping what just happened. And so let's start off with any exit polls when you take a look in terms of people's attitude about the direction of the country is incredibly negative. 33 said right direction, 62 percent wrong track. I mean, and it's been like that for eight years.
WINSTONThat created a dynamic within the electorate where, after two or three years of that, they started to get pretty frustrated about the direction of things. And ultimately where they got to was basically they wanted change and they were willing to play the equivalent of political 52-card pickup to get there, right? And so what they voted for is I want something completely different. That cut across ideological lines. That cut across a whole variety of lines and I think part of the challenge to everybody is, okay, now that that's happened, how do you pull it back together and sort of develop a legislative and policy strategy to move things forward?
WINSTONAnd that's where you're potentially hearing dissidents because people are working through that problem at this point.
PAGEWell, Mercedes, talk to us about the perspective of those who supported Donald Trump during the campaign, as many in the establishment either didn't support him or didn't want to associate with him or even said they weren't gonna vote for him. Are there scars from that?
SCHLAPPAbsolutely there were scars. I think that it was such a difficult journey for those Trump supporters. Many of us who are conservative who really felt that the alternative of having Hillary Clinton as president was surely not an option. I mean, you could talk to many conservatives who knew that Trump was not an ideologue in any way or would say that they're not -- that he wasn't a conservative. But the way he laid out his position on his Supreme Court picks, which would be strict constitutionalist in the likes of Justice Scalia, talking about protecting religious liberties, being what you would call not -- more prolife on that issue in particular, those were issues that were incredibly important for supporters like myself, Evangelical Christians, which 81 percent came out supporting him.
SCHLAPPYou had over 15 percent of Catholics supporting Trump over Clinton. He sent a signal to those groups that I think clearly said, Hillary Clinton, not an option and Donald Trump is our only option.
PAGEDavid, did Donald Trump lose a significant number of people who voted Republican in the past, traditional Republicans who maybe did not view him as a conservative or had questions about his temperament?
WINSTONNo, not at all. I mean, he ended up -- Romney got 93 percent in the last election and in this election, I believe Trump got in the neighborhood -- hold on for just a second -- he got in the neighborhood of around 89 to 90 percent. So he didn't really lose. He actually created sort of a very different construct, which is, again, why this result is so complicated moving forward. So, for example, one of the groups that he improved significantly was those making under 30,000. In 2012, Barack Obama won the union vote by 18 percent.
WINSTONIn this case, she only -- Hillary Clinton only won it by 8. That was a significant shift. If you take a look at those people who had some college or associates degree, you went from a 4 point Obama lead to a 9 point Trump win. So what you're seeing is a different coalition being put together, which is, again, I think what everybody's working through. This is not the traditional coalitions. This is something new.
WINSTONAnd, in fact, so how do you lead and govern in this environment is a serious challenge, but it's one that, obviously, being Republicans, I'd rather be facing in the majority than not.
SCHLAPPSure. And also, in the minority vote, it was interesting to watch that they were predicting Trump would get 18 percent of the Latino vote. He ended up getting 29 percent of the Latino vote, which you also started seeing as that Clinton...
PAGEWhich was more than Mitt Romney got.
SCHLAPPThan Romney, exactly. So and you looked at the African-American vote and actually Clinton didn't do as well as President Obama did in 2012 or 2008. So I think when you look at those minority voters where it should've been a number that Hillary Clinton should've just exceeded, she didn't do as well. The turnout wasn't there. But Trump did actually surprisingly better than we thought.
PAGEBut, you know, Eliana, this -- while he did a little bit better among Latinos, that was a big surprise, a little bit better among African Americans, maybe not a surprise since he wasn't running against an African-American candidate on the Democratic side, this was, in fact, an overwhelmingly white coalition that elected Donald Trump. And it comes after Republicans did that autopsy that concluded the party really needed to do more to become more diverse.
PAGEDoes this disprove the theory of the autopsy from four years ago?
JOHNSONWell, one of the most interesting dynamics that I think emerged in this election was that, yes, Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, essentially ended up helping Donald Trump run a campaign against the autopsy that he, himself, commissioned in 2012. But another interesting dynamic, I think, is that victorious Senate candidates, Rob Portman in Ohio, Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania among them, had paths to victory by greater margins than Trump had in their states that were quite different from what Donald Trump charted.
JOHNSONSo take Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania for example. He won by about 100,000 votes in Pennsylvania. Trump won by about 70,000 votes in Pennsylvania. Trump winning by greater margins in rural Pennsylvania areas, Toomey winning by greater margins in rural -- in urban areas, the counties around Philadelphia, both paths were victorious, but Toomey's path was in growing population centers around urban areas. And I think it does pose a question to the Republican party, which path does it want to pursue going forward.
JOHNSONEither one is an option and I think there will be a debate about which path do you go down or do different candidate simply choose different paths?
PAGEWell, you said in your first comments this hour that there were these two parties now, populist party in the White House and a more conservative party in the Congress. But the fact is, there's only one president. Isn't Donald Trump now the face of the Republican party?
JOHNSONHe's certainly the face of the Republican party. That being said, I think you saw a lot of candidates, even though Trump was the face of the party this cycle, distinguish themselves from him, run separate from him, Senate candidates, Toomey is an example, said -- distinguished himself on gun control, on many other issues. So I think there was more flexibility than Republican candidates imagined to distinguish themselves from, you know, the head of their party. And I think it will be interesting to see how that dynamic plays out.
JOHNSONPeople -- Republicans, the one thing they feared was how Trump would damage the ticket down ballot. That turned out really not to be the case.
PAGELet me ask -- I think a lot of people were surprised by the results just last Tuesday. It seems like it was longer ago than that. Were you surprised, Mercedes?
SCHLAPPOh, absolutely. I was up in New York City getting ready for my Fox hits and I was reading out the projections in Florida and it was very clear that, based on early voting, absentee ballots, Hillary Clinton had a almost 4 percent plus margin in Florida. And I said if he can't turn around -- if Trump can't turn around Florida, there is no way to win. So when we were sitting in the election desk going through the numbers and looking at Florida in that margin, it was amazing that knowing that Florida -- Trump won Florida, I think, was incredibly significant. It turned the race around.
PAGEWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll go to the phones. We'll take some of your calls and questions, read your emails, email@example.com. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. We're talking about the future of the Republican Party. You may remember that yesterday's show we talked about the future of the Democratic Party in these very interesting times. And joining me in the studio, Eliana Johnson. She's Washington editor of National Review. But the fact is she's about to leave that job for a new job at Politico, where she'll cover the Republican Party and the conservative movement. Congratulations on your new job.
JOHNSONThanks so much.
PAGEAnd we're joined by David Winston. He's president of the Winston Group. He's a Republican strategist, a CBS News consultant, and adviser to House and Senate Republican leadership for more than a decade. And Mercedes Schlapp, she's a Republican strategist, a columnist for the Washington Times, co-founder and a principal at Cove Strategies, a governmental and public affairs firm based in Alexandria.
PAGEEliana Johnson, you tweeted just before the show about what you called an extremely important dynamic potential developing here with a former Bush administration national security adviser warning others to stay out of the Trump administration. I'd like to talk about the role that these appointments we're beginning to see are going to have on Republican unity. Tell us what situation you were talking about there, this morning.
JOHNSONYeah. Several months ago, during the election, about 50 former experienced national security hands, led by a former Bush State Department -- George W. Bush State Department official, Elliot Cohen, signed a letter pledging never to work in a Trump administration, declaring him a danger to world peace essentially. And that same figure, Elliot Cohen, tweeted this morning that he had spoken with the Trump transition team and was reiterating his warning, essentially declaring that his impression, based on his conversation with the Trump transition team, was that their attitude was that they won and they were out for vengeance against the people who had opposed them during the campaign.
JOHNSONAnd my impression was that he was warning others to stay out of the administration because the atmosphere was toxic. And I do think that it's incredibly important to the -- of, you know, future Trump administration, whether experienced national security hands, A, whether the Trump transition team reaches out to them and, B, whether they are open to joining the Trump administration.
PAGEBut I guess you wouldn't be surprised that someone who is running for office and had people in his own party come out and say, for goodness sakes, do not elect this man, that there might be some hard feelings afterwards in terms of welcoming them into the fold.
WINSTONNow, and this is where I think you see, again, this transition to Mike Pence, who I think, for a lot of folks, was this sort of a real stable, calming factor in terms of this whole campaign. And putting him in charge of this transition, I thought, was a particularly smart move, right? Because bare -- he's the only person who's not looking for a job, right? And so it doesn't...
PAGEHe's got a job. He's going to be vice president.
WINSTONHe's got a job. And so -- and he's also someone who has standing on the Hill. So there's going to be confidence in terms of him executing that job. Today we're having the first real meeting between Trump and Pence to begin to think through, in fact, what this administration is going to look like at the cabinet level. So everything else is still sort of conjecture, until they've actually discussed it. And I think you're going to see a process, given some of the other people who are involved, like Newt, really thinking through, what are the range of the best people to put into positions.
WINSTONAnd I think part of the challenge for a lot of people who were uncomfortable with Trump is that was a campaign dynamic where a lot of things were said in the heat of the campaign. But now we've -- transitioning to governing. What does that discussion sound like? And I think it'll be a very different sound. And again, I have to say, having Mike Pence driving that particular train I think is a real asset for Trump and the Republicans.
SCHLAPPAnd the Never Trump movement, I mean, that's almost been as damaging as a Hillary Clinton run. I think, for Donald Trump and his team, it's about loyalty to a certain extent. So for them trying to now -- the Never Trumpers try to make amends, I mean, they got to give the Trump administration some space. Because the harsh critics coming from the Never Trump movement, the fact that they would try to disqualify him and the name calling surrounding this -- that -- this whole movement itself, I think, I mean they can't just think that the Donald Trump and his team, that they're going to be embraced by them.
PAGEWill they ever be embraced? Or is this forever?
SCHLAPPYou know, I think this is a long-term process. And right now I think, as David said, the fact that they do have Mike Pence in place, someone who has the government experience, understands what the needs are going to be in these critical appointments, are going to be key. I mean I think that they're -- the first thing that they're going to do is make sure that they care of -- take care of those people who have supported Donald Trump, who have stood by him, who've said, you know what, Hillary Clinton is a worse option than Donald, you know, and we still go -- stand by Donald Trump. And so I think that that's where they're going to go first.
JOHNSONI just think, you know, the transition team and the Trump administration can talk about taking care of the people who supported Trump. And that's find to take care of first. But if those people don't include a score of experienced national security hands, that's a real potentially serious problem for the Trump administration.
PAGEWell, there are two people who have been appointed, whose name -- have been named to top White House jobs on Sunday. The new chief of staff, Reince Priebus, the RNC chairman, a familiar figure here in Washington. The other is Steve Bannon, who has been head of Breitbart News, which is a website associated with white supremacy, anti-Semitism. Any concerns about Steve Bannon's appointment, Mercedes, to be senior White House counselor, right next to the president?
SCHLAPPI don't know Steve Bannon. I know people who know him and they all, you know, they are -- they just can't believe that they're hearing this about Bannon. They don't feel, I mean, he's pro-Israel, you know, he's a person who is -- has -- understands clearly the populist movement in this country, has been able to advise Donald Trump on the Rust Belt strategy. I am not concerned. I feel that the combination of Bannon, who understands this populist movement and the idea of America first and nation state and having secure borders is a positive thing.
SCHLAPPAdded to that, Reince Priebus, which understands and has a close relationship with Speaker Ryan, I think it's going to be an interesting play of insider-outsider. And I think it's a good balance for Donald Trump.
PAGEWell, Reince Priebus definitely has ties to Paul Ryan, the House speaker. They're both from Wisconsin. They're long-time friends. But Steve Bannon has a history with Paul Ryan too and that is of opposing Paul Ryan. Is this going to be a problem, David, do you think, in terms of the White House dealing with the highest ranking Republican on Capitol Hill?
WINSTONWell, I mean, again, let's go back to Reince. I mean Reince is from Wisconsin. He and Paul Ryan have known each other for years, have come up in the political system. And, you know, and let me go back -- Steve Bannon clearly understands that he's walking in in a controversial situation. You saw him yesterday make a lot of phone calls to the Hill, to begin to sort of deal with members in terms of walking into...
PAGEWhat was he telling them?
WINSTONI'm not -- I wasn't privy to the phone calls, so I have no idea. But I mean you can sort of guess what he was doing. He's like, you know, here's where I am on these issues. You know, letting members pose questions to him in terms of, I heard this about you, I heard that about you and responding to that. That's exactly what he needed to do. Whether that will sort of deal with this current of concern about him, we'll see how that plays out. But that's exactly the right first steps that he should have done. And we'll see how it evolves.
PAGEAmong Republicans, Eliana, is there concern about Steve Bannon? I mean, Democrats are quite united in raising alarm bells about him. But what do Republicans feel?
JOHNSONI -- among conservatives, there is alarm about Steve Bannon taking an advisory position in the White House for this reason, Steve Bannon has said that it is his mission to see Paul Ryan unseated from his position and defeated. He has said he wants to devote the website, Breitbart, to that mission. And he has said that Brietbart is a website of the alt-right movement. The alt-right, by its name, is alternative right. It is not the conservative movement. And it seeks to replace the conservative movement with its ideology. So conservatives, I think rightfully, as anybody would, take issue with that.
JOHNSONSo what Trump has set up is competing power centers in the White House between somebody who has said he hopes to overthrow conservatives and the leader of the conservative movement in the House, Paul Ryan, and Reince Priebus, who is an -- Paul Ryan's ally. And I think that's potentially problematic. And it's not surprising that conservatives take exception to somebody who is their sworn enemy.
WINSTONAnd I think that's exactly the concerns that he's going to have to address over the next couple of weeks, to make sure that in fact that sense is not there. If he doesn't do that, then that'll be more problematic.
PAGELet's go to the phones and let some of our listeners join in with their questions. Let's go to Fremont, Ind., and talk to Kevin. Kevin, thanks for calling us from the land of Mike Pence.
KEVINGood morning, Susan.
KEVINI had an idea on how Donald Trump, who's not an ideologue, could actually get term limits in Congress and Senate. And the only way -- there's only one way he could possibly do it, and that would be to say, I will not sign any legislation, I will not do anything until I get a bill that limits terms on Senate and Congress.
PAGEAll right, Kevin. Thanks so much for your call. Do we think this is a priority for Donald Trump?
PAGEYeah. So, Kevin, I don't think that's going to happen. But thanks for your suggestion. Let's go to Ken. He's calling us from Raleigh, N.C. Hi, Ken.
KENHey, good morning. I'd like to get your comments on both the RNC and the DNC and their use of super delegates. If you look at this cycle, the DNC used 20 percent, plus, of their primary delegates for super delegates. You could argue to keep outliers out and the establishment in. And it successfully did that with Bernie. And then with the D -- the RNC, it didn't have super delegates. And you could argue, it let the outlier in. So it kind of maybe backfired from what the people and the parties wanted. And just wanted your thoughts on what could potentially happen over the next four years.
PAGESo, Ken, do you think super delegates are a good idea?
PAGEAll right. Well, that was pretty direct. Well, any chance Republicans will adopt this thing that the Democrats...
SCHLAPPI think in unison we're going to say no.
PAGENo to super delegates.
SCHLAPPAfter you win the presidency, you feel that your process has been victorious. You let the people speak. I think that Sanders is probably -- would probably agree with Ken that they shouldn't allow for super delegates. And the Democratic Party, it will be interesting to see if they change that model.
PAGENo super delegates, no term limits. But here's an email from Rob in Baltimore, who writes, Trump ran a campaign promising many different and sometimes opposing things to different groups. The downside for the Republicans and the country is that a very large number of Americans are fed up with broken political promises. When Trump's promises also go unfulfilled, showing America that even the populist outsider can't be trusted, even more people will be frustrated. What do you think about that, David?
WINSTONNo. And now you get to the challenge really facing Republicans. And this is sort of across the board. And that is, okay, we've caught the bus, right? And now what do we do? We have, I mean, at this point now, we're on the hook for getting certain things done here. And we had an -- we had this new electorate who just put us all into -- put Republicans into power in terms of governing. And now we're going to have to execute. So now you're going to go back and you're going to watch a process of thinking through some very specific things.
WINSTONAnd so, for example, repealing the ACA. Likely to come through in terms of trying to do that through the legislative process, in terms of reconciliation. Talking to Schumer in terms of dealing with the infrastructure. Thinking through tax reform. What has to happen here -- and this is where having these key legislative leaders and Ryan and McConnell, who really know how to work through these bodies in terms of policy -- working through them to actually get points on the board. Because to that person's point, the challenge now is, okay, we've got the team we wanted on the field. But now we've got to put points on the board to say, this is why we should stay on the field.
PAGEI'm Susan Page and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're taking your calls, 1-800-433-8850. David, you talk about this new coalition. Are we in a kind of -- did we just see the kind of election where the nature of the two parties really changed in fundamental ways? Because you think about Trump's attraction to lower income folks, white people who didn't have a college education, who have a tradition going back, in some ways, to be part of the Democratic coalition. Is that in the midst of changing?
WINSTONPotentially. Now, let me go back to the former question. If, in fact, you see those sort of things passed and you see actual points put on the -- then, in fact, you're going to see that shift occur. Look, there's another challenge that Republicans are going to have address here, too. And that is, two out of the last three times we've won the White House, we've done so in a minority situation in the sense of we didn't win the popular vote. We've got to figure out how to build that out into a majority coalition. I think, given the lines that he crossed in terms of, again, people with less income, some college, union households, that presents an opportunity to really build that out and build out a majority coalition.
WINSTONBut ultimately it's still -- it's going to come down to the bottom line, does -- do Republican produce now over the next six months? And that's really the challenge in front of the party.
PAGEDo conservative Republicans, Eliana, want this to work? Want a new party that does not maybe have all the pro-business, conservative policy stances that the Republican Party has had for several decades?
JOHNSONI do think conservatives, particularly in the House and Senate, want to see things pushed through. Because I think they believe they will get the credit for repealing or reforming the Affordable Care Act, for example, reforming the tax code, getting something done on infrastructure. I think you'll see conservative leaders like Paul Ryan incentivized to get things done and touting their accomplishments.
PAGESo there's no stress, there's no feeling like this is not our party. We don't want -- because one thing, if you're going to appeal to this new group of voters, you're going to presumably have more populist economic policies. You're going to spend more money maybe than you would under a traditional Republican.
JOHNSONI think, like in the Reagan administration where conservatives took their lumps on not cutting spending in some areas or letting the debt and deficit grow, the same sorts of things will happen here.
PAGEAll right. Let's go to Mike in Severn, Md. You're on the air, Mike. Thanks for joining us.
MIKEHi. I think that the Bannon appointment is a huge problem for Republicans. It ties in with Trump's KKK endorsement and the alt-right's bullying rhetoric. Last Sunday, Leslie Stahl, on "60 Minutes," asked Donald Trump about the threats and intimidation that had been reported, bullying in schools, churches being desecrated. And Trump's answer was, stop it. I think that is insufficient. Rather than having surrogates say, don't worry, Trump himself needs to cut through that noise and show up at a church that has been defaced and say, this is not okay. This is not what I want to see in the America I'm going to lead. I'd like to hear what your guests have to say.
PAGEMike, thanks so much for your call. Mercedes, let me ask you. Do you think that's something that the president-elect ought to be doing?
SCHLAPPI think that's a great point. I think that, as president elect, and he has made that call to unity in America. And he's faced with a very divided nation. And obviously you're seeing these protests play out in cities across the country. And it is -- it's going to be his role. And I think the Democrats actually, President Obama and Hillary Clinton have done I think a very good job of addressing the fact that, look, let's give him a chance to lead. Let's not judge. Now for Donald Trump, his key is to push forward that message of stop it. We need to come together. And not make it about the rhetoric or the tough rhetoric that we've seen.
PAGEDavid, do you worry there's damage done to the kind of Republican brand by some of this rhetoric, some of these concerns and these big protests we see on the street in some cities?
WINSTONWell, it's a sort of complicated question. Let me -- because the Republican brand wasn't starting off in a good place initially anyway. So let's start there. And certainly what the caller identified is a significant challenge that you're going to watch Trump and his team around him as they transition from the campaign to governing, right, do. But the bottom line is, at least at this point, where the proof in terms of the brand is going to happen is, what do we do?
PAGEWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll go to the phones, we'll take some of your calls and questions. Stay with us.
PAGEWe're taking your calls. You can call us at 1-800-433-8850. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Of find us on Facebook or Twitter. Well let's go to New York and talk to Tony. Tony, hi, you're on the air.
TONYGood morning. I'm very concerned about Steven Bannon, and I think Trump's claims about telling people to stop it and he didn't intend hate groups to rise is a complete lie. Bannon is quoted as saying let the grass roots turn on the hate, and that's the way we'll take over. So we've got a guy who wants to turn on the hate as the primary advisor to the president of the United States. What kind of country is this going to be?
PAGETony, tell us where did you get the quote that you're read from Steve Bannon?
TONYIt's in the New York Times, and you can find it on the Daily Beast, too. They've got emails between him and his editors.
PAGEAll right, Tony, thanks very much for your call. Mercedes, we're actually getting a lot of listeners who are sending emails about concern about Steve Bannon as Tony expressed. What would you say to them?
SCHLAPPYou know, I -- the people who have spent time with Steve Bannon, who know him, have worked with him, you know, many of them, you know, they believe he's just -- he's a very private individual. He's -- they -- for him it is about the populist movement, it is about working-class Americans. I feel that it's up to Steve Bannon to come out and basically clear the record. I mean, you're looking at -- you go to Breitbart right now, and there are stories of I know Steve Bannon, he's not a racist, Steve Bannon cares about his country and the people around him. So there are people that are standing up in defense of Steve Bannon.
SCHLAPPI think for Bannon himself to survive this controversy, it will -- I think it's imperative for him to come out and speak and put these allegations aside.
WINSTONBut I also think it's also very important that the White House recognize these are real concerns. People are hearing these things, some of them may be true, some of them may not be true, but the fact as people are hearing these and working through this, and it's concerning a lot of folks. They need to take that concern real, they need to address it, and here's the thing.
WINSTONI mean, Steve Bannon, like I said, he's already trying to address that by calling members of Congress yesterday, but he needs to realize that the onus is on him at this point to address this, to deal with this situation.
JOHNSONBannon served as the head of a news organization and issued statements both public and private, but either way that are now a part of the public discourse, saying things like that he's a Leninist who wants to bring the state to its knees and to stoke anger among the grass roots, and these are things that I think are rightfully alarming to people and that both he and the White House, the forthcoming Trump administration, need to address.
JOHNSONI think people are rightfully nervous, concerned and upset about a lot of the things that he and Breitbart have said. He still -- I think he's still responsible for the things that are being published on the Breitbart website, and things published there are not enough to address people's concerns.
PAGEAlso in his divorce papers, there are reports that his ex-wife said that he didn't want their children to be hanging out with Jewish children, also something that's of concern, I think, to some Americans. Is it reparable, do you think, Eliana? Is this something he can address effectively and serve as the new president's chief strategist?
JOHNSONWell, I think he needs to address them. I tend to distrust things that are, you know, disputed, you know, in divorces and in people's genuinely private lives, as opposed to in their semi-public lives when they're working at news organizations. But I think there are enough controversial things surrounding him that he and Mr. Trump need to address them.
WINSTONAnd I could -- here's a conservative journalist who just rattled off a series of statements, right. This isn't like it's the liberal press saying this. This is a conservative journalist. That's the challenge in front of him. He's got to figure out some way to address that to allay those fears. And the ball in this particular case is in his court to have to do that.
SCHLAPPRight, and I think, like, conservative radio host Mark Levin came out yesterday saying, you know, he's not a big fan of Donald Trump, to say the least, or -- and he said that the anti-Semitic comments about Steve Bannon were not correct, that he is pro-Israel, you know, in his conversations with Bannon. So I think that they're putting this persona like Bannon is Darth Vader, and I think it's -- you know, it's tough.
SCHLAPPAnd I'll tell you, this race in and of itself, I think what's been so difficult for Trump supporters has been the fact that so many Democrats, the name-calling has been a strategy for them. They've called, myself and others, sexist, racist, and that list goes on and on, and I think that we want to get past the name-calling and start talking about policy issues for America.
PAGELet's talk about Cabinet choices, though. That's obviously a very important decision now facing the president-elect, and we've seen speculation, for instance, about secretary of state, one of the most crucial positions. Eliana, what do we -- what do we know or think we know about the debate over who will be the new secretary of state, and what will that tell us about the future of the Republican Party?
JOHNSONI'm not sure how much it will say about the future of the Republican Party. I do think it will say a lot about the course of the Trump administration, but the two finalists for the position are former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, and the -- that faceoff is between somebody -- a Trump loyalist, Giuliani, who is not beloved by conservatives, and former U.N. Ambassador Bolton, who is beloved by conservatives.
JOHNSONAnd I think the Trump transition team is debating between whether they should reward a loyalist or relieve conservatives and, you know, extend and olive branch to conservatives with a Bolton appointment.
PAGEWhat if they don't? What if they choose Giuliani?
JOHNSONI think they'll be, you know, rewarding a loyalist, and I do think that everything we've seen from the Trump -- the Trump group throughout the campaign is that their instinct is to reward loyalists, and I think Christ Christie, for example, who was leading the transition, you know, reports are that he was seen as mailing it when he thought Trump was going to lose and was discarded for Mike Pence, who had remained loyal throughout the campaign.
JOHNSONSo my guess would be that they're going to reward Rudy Giuliani, who stood by Trump throughout the campaign.
SCHLAPPAnd Eliana talked about the national security expertise. That is something that I think it's -- there's no question that Ambassador John Bolton has the right experience to be secretary of state. I think when you look at Giuliani, you think of the tough prosecutor, the tough fighter in the courts, and he would be a better pick for AG, which actually would not be something that conservatives would embrace, either, from that position.
SCHLAPPSo I think Bolton would be the natural, logical pick, but it's interesting how the fighting, the infighting might be occurring at this point.
PAGEBut the positions that John Bolton has taken in terms of U.S. engagement in the world and the projection of U.S. military might in the world, isn't it at odds with the America First position that Trump outlined in the campaign?
JOHNSONThey're absolutely at odds with many of the positions Trump has taken during the campaign, particularly on Russia. Bolton was not shy about expressing his disagreement with Trump when it came to that, though he was not a Never Trumper. And I think those are some of the reasons that there would be reservations in the Trump camp about appointing him or nominating him for the position, and, you know, and that's exactly the same reason why conservatives would be relieved to see Bolton nominated for secretary of state because they've been alarmed by some of the national security positions and statements that Trump and his team have taken throughout the campaign.
PAGEAnd does your reporting indicate that Chris Christie is not going to be getting some great job here in Washington?
JOHNSONI think that's right.
PAGEOr any job?
JOHNSONI think that's right. I think the BridgeGate verdicts that came out, you know, it might have been eight or nine days ago, I think really cast a cloud over Chris Christie, and perhaps the timing was unlucky, but I think it also raised concern about whether he could be confirmed by a Republican Senate.
SCHLAPPAnd Susan, to another point, there's always the ambassadorships, okay. Like let's not forget that. Maybe that's where Christie will go.
PAGEOne of the great things about being president is you do have a lot of positions to fill. You know, David, one of the things that was remarkable and historic about this election was that we had two candidates, two major-party candidates, who were the least popular candidates in the -- since we began doing polling in a serious way. About one in five voters said they disliked both of them, disapproved of both of them. What happened with those voters?
WINSTONWell actually they ended up, according to the exit polls, when you ask did you have a favorable opinion of one and the other, 18 percent of the country said they didn't have a favorable opinion of either one. And Donald Trump won those voters by 20 points, right. And what that basically was saying is it came down to the one attribute that he won in terms of personal attributes was can bring about the needed change. Four out of 10 Americans said that was the most important attribute, and he won those voters 83 to 14.
WINSTONSo what that basically said is he was for change, she was for something else, and when you matched up the negative elements in terms of people who disliked both, he won them decisively. Interesting enough, if you asked who was qualified, and if you said neither to both of them, he won those voters 69 to 15.
PAGESo among voters who didn't think either was qualified to be president, he overwhelmingly carried them.
PAGENow these voters who have now signed on and say, okay, he's my president, and I trust him, and I think he's qualified, are these voters he still has to win over?
WINSTONThese are voters who are basically saying okay, I'm going to give him the chance, but you have to deliver. And so he's got them listening, which is not an easy thing for a politician to do at this point in this role, but at least they are willing to listen, but he's got to deliver something here.
PAGELet's go back to the phones. We'll go to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and talk to Shannon. Shannon, you're on "The Diane Rehm Show."
SHANNONThank you very much. Yeah, I have a question about how the Trump administration would handle the Democrats in Congress acting obstructionist, as the Republicans have done in the past with the Obama administration.
PAGEAll right, Shannon, thanks for you call.
SCHLAPPI think you're going to see a lot less gridlock. I think when you look at Donald Trump, he's not an ideologue. I think he really wants to have the checklist and get things done. I think you're going to find common ground on infrastructure spending, on tax reform. I think that there's an opportunity for -- especially on the issue of trade. You're going to see those progressives who never liked TPP or want to renegotiate trade deals. I think that's his opportunity to work with Democrats. I think you're going to see a lore more bipartisanship than we think, although Schumer is obviously coming out strong and saying that he might not be willing to work necessarily with Donald Trump.
PAGEWell of course Democrats have some hard feelings for what they felt was unending Republican obstructionism during the Obama administration. Did -- what do you -- is that a concern, David, as the Republicans begin to take over the White House?
WINSTONI'll give a slightly different interpretation of what happened in the beginning of the Obama term, having been somewhat familiar with it. So you have Republican leaders who go over, and they're about to talk about the stimulus package in February of 2009, and the president announces to them, well, I won the election. And that began to sort of sour a relationship. Boehner tried to revive it in terms of doing a grand bargain, and that ultimately fell apart, as well.
WINSTONI think what you're going to watch from this group is that is not a strategy that worked, right, clearly for President Obama that he -- I mean, he ended up having to resort to the pen and phone strategy at the end, which means he just gave up on Congress completely. That's not where I think Trump wants to go. Having said that, right, they're going to have to work through so how do you begin to engage Democrats in such a way that in fact you can create some voting coalitions on certain issues that pull Democrats in, and I think you're going to see them think through that.
WINSTONAnd actually Newt on a variety of shows has talked about that. It's a very deliberate, specific strategy.
PAGEWhat kind of role do you think Newt Gingrich may play in this new setup?
WINSTONSo far what it looks like he's doing is the sort of strategic planning, thinking through, okay, at a broad level, if we're looking a new coalition, how does that work, how do you begin to pull that together, what are the policies that need to go -- need to move forward. To some degree what Newt will do is say sort of okay here's where I think it should be, and this is what I'm going to recommend, and now let's work backwards from that to figure out what we should do to get there.
PAGEI'm Susan Page, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Eliana, did you have something you wanted to say about Newt Gingrich's role?
JOHNSONYou know, I think -- I think David's exactly right that when Obama said to Eric Cantor, Eric, I won, it set the tenor for the entire Obama administration and the president's lack -- relative lack of interest in reaching out to Congress, working with Congress. He simply was perceived as somebody who was not interested in working with Congress.
JOHNSONI don't know how Donald Trump would be. He has a reputation as a dealmaker, but I do think it remains to be seen the extent to which he reaches out to members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, and I do think Mike Pence will play a real role here in reaching out to Republicans and Democrats alike. But I think there's a potential for a different dynamic, but I think it will be very interesting to see how that shapes up.
PAGEThere's sure a lot of things we're expecting Mike Pence to do.
JOHNSONYou know, I think that there's a real potential for Pence to develop a reputation as a Dick Cheney-like figure in the first...
SCHLAPPThe kinder, gentler version.
JOHNSONRight, in a Trump administration, but he does have a potential, I think, to sort of remake the role of vice president.
WINSTONAnd remember he had a very difficult task when he was conference chair in the House in the 2009-2010 cycle, right when -- and the conference is responsible for communication for House Republicans. His job was to basically put that message out there, and ultimately that resulted in one of the largest victories Republicans have ever had at a congressional level, and he was responsible for the communication side of that.
PAGEWe have time for one more call. Let's go to Nick. He's calling us from Watertown, New York. Nick, thank you for joining us.
NICKYeah, hi, my question, I guess, or kind of comment is, you know, is this going to be seen as kind of the beginning of the end for the Republican Party? And what I mean by that is, you know, they say Trump captured the angry white male vote, but the writing on the wall is that he's not really going to be accomplish the things in the manner that he said. And is this going to disappoint those voters? And the flip side, you see these protests nationwide that has kind of woken up the Democratic -- the Democrats that have somewhat become complacent over the past eight years with Obama.
NICKSo you see them winning the popular vote. On the next election, you know, is this going to kind of, like I said, get rid of that complacency and stomp out the conservative movement?
PAGENick, thanks so much for your call. Mercedes, you're smiling.
SCHLAPPI think -- because I keep thinking that a year ago they were saying it was the beginning of the end of the Republican Party, and we talked about the potential civil war if Donald Trump were to lose. I think there is a lot of hope in being able to bring together the populist side of the Republican Party, the establishment side, and the conservative movement.
SCHLAPPI mean, I think you're going to see that there's going to be a lot of conservative appointments made in this administration. I think Pence -- just having Pence serve as a transition chair is -- sends -- is a very strong signal. So he -- I am much more hopeful than our caller is.
PAGEYou know, we could have -- we would have been having this show if Donald Trump had lost, and Republicans had lost control of the Senate, and I wonder if the divisions in the party would have seemed a lot more unbridgeable than they do today, David.
WINSTONIn hindsight, I mean, you can always see, like, where things were sort of fraying and going in difficult directions. But let me suggest the fundamental challenge here in terms of all Republicans, and this includes Trump, McConnell, Ryan, it's how do you take a political victory and turn it into a governing majority, right. That's what I would suggest that President Obama struggled with, and that's where the country wants to try to -- hopes Trump is going to do. Can he turn this into a governing majority?
WINSTONHaving said that, we don't know the answer to that, right, and that's obviously the challenge going forward, but it's where the country want to go. They are really tired of the direction of this country. They want to see some change, and ultimately this election was about change.
PAGEDavid Winston, Eliana Johnson Washington, Mercedes Schlapp, thanks so much for joining us this hour on the Diane Rehm Show.
PAGEI'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.
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