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Meet the Press - August 6, 2017

NBC News - Meet The Press

"8.06.17"

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday another tumultuous week in Washington.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS:

Anthony wants General Kelly to be able to operate fully with a clean slate.

CHUCK TODD:

A White House staff shake-up. Congress leaves town after getting nothing done. The Russia investigation expands again this time to include grand juries. And President Trump continues to call it, all of it, a hoax.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

The Russia story is a total fabrication. It's just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics. That's all it is.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

It all sounds so familiar. So why do we keep having weeks like this? This morning a broken politics, two parties searching for their identity. The Republicans.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

I think to be conservative can't be to embrace conspiracy theories or to talk about alternative facts.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

I'll talk to Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona who took on his own Republican Party for not sticking to its principles. And the Democrats.

(BEGIN TAPE)

GOV. JERRY BROWN:

You'd have to say their leadership has not been clever enough or strong enough or perhaps visionary enough.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

My interview with California Governor Jerry Brown on how the Democrats have managed to become a minority party in Washington, in state houses and voted out of the White House. We agree Washington is not working. What can we do to fix it? Joining me for insight and analysis are NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, Dan Balz, chief correspondent for the Washington Post, Heather McGhee, president of the progressive group, Demos, and David French, senior writer for the National Review. Welcome to Sunday and a special edition of Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington, the longest running show in television history, celebrating its 70th year. This is a special edition of Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. What was extraordinary about this week was how ordinary it was. The Russia investigation heated up again. There was a shake-up in the White House again. Congress couldn't get anything done again. There was talk of reviving the Republican health care rewrite again.

Still two things stood out to us. One was that President Trump's approval rate hit 33% in the latest Quinnipiac poll. His lowest number yet in that poll. And the rapturous welcome the president received in West Virginia when he attacked the investigation in the news media.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

The Russia story is a total fabrication. It's just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics. It just makes them feel better when they have nothing else to talk about.

CHUCK TODD:

This is where we are. Our politics is broken. There are a lot of suspects, too much money, gerrymandering, our growing cultural divide. But if there's one thing our political parties can agree on is that they don't agree on much. Today we're going to focus on our broken political parties specifically.

Consider this, Republicans have never seen more ascending. They have their biggest House majority since the 1920s and more governors in multiple generations yet they can't get anything done. Democrats have never seemed more ascendant. Demographics are moving relentlessly in their direction. And yet they can't win any elections.

Both sides are focused more on the issue of winning the next election, firing up their base, talking to people who already agree with them than they are about persuading people to eventually agree with them. Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona took after his own Republican Party, perhaps to his own peril when he wrote this in Politico magazine this week. "It was we conservatives who upon Obama's election stated that our number one priority was not advancing a conservative policy agenda but making Obama a one-term president. The corollary to this binary thinking being that his failure would be our success."

Could Senator Flake's words also describe Democrats in the age of Trump? We'll get to that and we'll get to the Democrats a little bit later in the broadcast. But joining me now to talk about the Republican Party is the author of that Politico Magazine column, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona. Senator, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE: Thanks for having me on.

CHUCK TODD: Well, look, your book felt like a two-pronged attack, if you will, on the state of the Republican Party today: first, on the character of the president and, then, more on the issue of what’s happened to conservatism. I want to focus on the issue of Trump and conservatism here. You wrote the following:

“Too often we observe the unfolding drama along with the rest of the country, passively, all but saying, ‘Someone should do something!’ without seeming to realize that that someone is us.”

But in defense of the Republican field and conservatives in 2016, a lot of conservatives warned the country that Donald Trump wasn’t one. Take a listen.

(BEGIN TAPE)

RICK PERRY:

“Donald Trump's candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded.”

//

TED CRUZ:

“Donald Trump and Hillary's policy views on issue after issue are virtually indistinguishable.”

//

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

“I'm not afraid of losing an election, I'm afraid of losing our soul.”

//

JEB BUSH:

“It bothers me that someone comes to hijack that cause. Donald Trump is not a conservative.”

//

MARCO RUBIO:

“I will go anywhere to speak to anyone before I let a con artist get a hold of the Republican Party and the conservative movement.”

(END TAPE)

Senator, why didn’t conservatives listen to Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rick Perry -- all who laid it out starkly on the issue of Donald Trump and conservatism?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE: Well, what I do in the book Conscience of a Conservative, borrowed from Barry Goldwater’s tome in, you know, 1960. He thought that the party had kind of given in to the New Deal and felt that he ought to put a blueprint forward for conservatism. I think today conservatism has kind of been compromised by populism. And people might say, “Well, we have the House, we have the Senate, we have the White House,” Republicans do. But not long ago we had that, in 2006, and we lost it because -- I don’t think -- we acted very conservative, with all the spending and everything else that went on. So I think that just because we have the House, the Senate and the White House, we can’t rest easy and say that populism is a governing philosophy because I don’t believe that it is.

CHUCK TODD: What -- but I am curious what motivated you to write this book? Donald Trump’s character or this issue with conservatism that you’re just making the argument -- and others have made to me before -- that actually goes back 20 years?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE: Well, I started writing this book before Donald Trump became president, but I am concerned at the direction the party is going -- protectionism in particular, kind of an anti-immigrant fervor. Those kind of things, I don’t think, are going to propel Republicans into the future. I think demographics are against us in that regard. And I think that we’ve got to do something different.

CHUCK TODD: But I guess I go back -- if Donald Trump, you thought he was a man of good character, but was still touting the same populist populism, protectionism, as you just described it, when it comes to trade issues, some things that have been stuff that conservatives have argued against for years, would you have written this book with the same tone?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE: Well, I do think it’s not -- to be a conservative is not just to follow conservative principles in terms of limited government, economic freedom, free trade, but it is conservative in terms of comportment and behavior and I don’t think that we have seen that out of the White House. It’s not conservative on foreign policy, for example, to keep your allies guessing as to where you are and what you support. A conservative is steady and measured and sober in terms of implementation of diplomacy and use of force. And I think that that is lacking. And I think that we have got to change course in that regard.

CHUCK TODD: Well, let me ask you this, what would you -- going in hindsight now -- what should the conservative movement have done in 2016 that they didn’t do? You know, Mitt Romney spoke out, National Review did a famous “Never Trump” endorsement, if you will, endorsing anybody but, none of it seemed to work. In hindsight, is there anything you would have done differently as a conservative leader?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE: Well, I’m not denying that populism isn’t popular. That’s why it’s called populism. The problem is I think it’s first and foremost the duty of conservatives to tell the truth to the constituency and it’s easy to point to a shuttered factory and say, “Hey, if we’d just negotiated better trade deals, then those jobs would be there.” When really it’s automation and productivity gains. It’s much more complex and my concern is that populism is a sugar high and once you come off it, it’s particularly troublesome for the party. And so I wish that we would have been more truthful with the electorate in terms of what we can and what we cannot do in Washington.

CHUCK TODD: But you were pretty rough on some conservatives because, look, the movement was split; you had some that stuck to their guns on this and others that you called “willing accomplices.” In fact you write this, on page 110:

"We forgot to affirm in a voice loud and clear that yes, we are proud Republicans, but that we believe in country before party. We forgot to do that. We were afraid to do that.”

You're clearly not afraid to do that. Is your party? Is the conservative movement still afraid?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

Well, I do think that we've seen more people ready to stand up. And I wish that we, as a party, would have stood up, for example, when the birtherism thing was going along. A lot of people did stand up but not enough.

CHUCK TODD:

Did you do enough?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

That was particularly ugly.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm just curious, do you--

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

On that I think I did. But on other things as well, I mean, our party I wonder, you know, during rallies when the chants, "Lock her up," you know, we shouldn't be the party for jailing your political opponents. And anybody at that rally, anybody at those rallies, ought to stand up and say, "That's inappropriate. We shouldn't be doing that."

And I wish we as a party and elected officials would do more of that, or when particularly ugly conspiracy theories go out or simply fake news. Stuff that is just demonstrably false. We ought to stand up and say, "Hey, that's just not right."

CHUCK TODD:

What if more leaders in your party don't? I mean, is there a point where you say to yourself-- because I read this book, and again, I go back, it's as much of an indictment on the Republican leadership of the last 15 years as it is on Donald Trump. In fact, it's more of an indictment on the Republican leadership. And I am just curious did you think about leaving the party?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

No. No. Not at all. I'm a proud Republican. Lifelong Republican. And I'm from Arizona. Arizona tends to elect independent-minded people and people who stand on principle. So I'm doing what I think my voters expect of me. But I think, for example, in 2006 when the party in particular had given way to inappropriate spending, earmarked spending, a couple of our colleagues ended up in jail, if you remember, the mantra, "Drain the swamp," was employed very effectively by the Democrats in describing the Republican Party at that time. And I think had we stood up at that time then we wouldn't have lost those majorities in the House and the Senate. And I fear that we might do the same again.

CHUCK TODD:

You had strong words in this book. And yet we looked at your voting record and at this point you vote more with the president than even some others in the Senate who have taken the president on. You, according to our account here, 93.5 percent of the time you have voted with the president.

Is there a point where you will vote potentially against your own ideological interests in order to send a message to Republican leadership, in order to send a message to President Trump? I guess the question is when does character trump ideology for you?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

Well, what we've done in the Senate so far, in the first six months of any presidency, we're in the personnel business. And all we're doing really is approving the president's cabinet picks, justices. The president named a great Supreme Court justice. I was glad to support him in that.

Regulatory policy, I think he's on the right track. I think tax reform he has good instincts there. I'll probably be with him. But on many things like trade I expect to vote against the president. And I'll stand up just like I did when President Bush was there.

I voted against No Child Left Behind and the prescription drug benefit. But I was with him on most things. And I think that I'll do the same here. I'll vote with the president when I believe he's right and vote against him when I think he's wrong.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. The tone you're taking here doesn't sound like the man who wrote this book. The man who wrote this book sounds like you feel as if there's a sense of urgency here. "Things are so broken in the conservative movement we can't stand pat anymore." But you sound like you're figuring out how to tiptoe around this still.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

Well--

CHUCK TODD:

Is there a point where you're done tiptoeing?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

Let me just say that during the voting we haven't voted on much where you could distinguish yourself from the way the direction the president is going. Having said that, some of the executive orders that he's taken, for example, on the Muslim ban. Well, it was a Muslim ban during the campaign. What became the travel ban.

I very much spoke up against that. I don't think that that's in our national security interest. I don't think that's the direction to go. The immigration proposal that was put forward last week, I think it's fine to move to a point system.

We did that in the bipartisan bill that we did in the Senate. But you can't cut immigration, legal immigration, in half. And so I'll stand up against that. And the behavior in the White House as well. I mean, referring to our colleagues across the aisle as losers or clowns is just not the direction to go if we are going to solve the problems in a conservative way that we need to. So I'll stand up every time to the president when he's doing things that I don't think he should be doing. But in terms of votes, we haven't had that many other than personnel to distinguish ourselves either way.

CHUCK TODD:

How do you fix the Senate though? It's a very leadership-driven operation. Both parties have accepted this premise that the rank and file are not to decide where legislation goes, only the leadership. Part of your book indicts that leadership. How should Mitch McConnell respond to your book?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

Well, I think that we realize the limits of what we can do, you know, with one party, with just Republican votes. And I'm not faulting Mitch McConnell at all. He has a tough job. But I do think that we're going to sit down across the aisle with our colleagues and fix these things.

If we're going to fix the big things that we need to fix, in particular our debt and deficit, that has to be done with Republicans and Democrats. There's no way one party will take the risk. And that's what is so broken about our politics is we just can't get together on the big things. And as conservatives we simply can't enact conservative policy if we continue these polemics.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I'm going to have to leave it there. We're actually going to discuss the lost middle in American politics up next when we get a chance. Senator Jeff Flake, Republican from Arizona, thanks for coming on and sharing your views, sir. I appreciate it.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Up next, we're going to look at that, how the divisions within the GOP are handcuffing and frustrating the president right now, especially when it comes to his favorite topic, Russia. And later we'll look at the troubles the Democrats are facing with California Governor Jerry Brown. And, by the way, as we go to break throughout the show you're going to see some trends and statistics about how our politics has changed in the last generation. First up is simply how the red/blue map has evolved in the last 40 years from '76 to '16.

***COMMERCIAL NOT TRANSCRIBED***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Panel is here. Dan Balz, the chief correspondent for the Washington Post, Heather McGhee, president of the progressive group Demos, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell and David French, senior writer for National Review. David I'm going to let you take the start here. You, among the more prominent. I think you were even recruited to run for president to challenge--

DAN BALZ:

That actually--

CHUCK TODD:

There was that, I know sometime you’re like—I am struck by Senator Flake's “it's a two-pronged attack on the party, Trump's character, conservatism. What are you gleaning from this?

DAN BALZ:

Well, what I'm gleaning from this, let's just keep this very real. Okay? We focus an awful lot on politicians and what are politicians doing. But there's the people. And I live in the middle of Trump country. My precinct went for Trump by about 72%.

And what I can tell you is there is a market for what Trump is selling. And we cannot ignore that and we can't just focus completely on Washington. What we are overrun with right now is negative polarization. This is what the Pew Foundation has measured, where people are supporting Republicans not because they love what Republicans stand for but because there's so much hostility to Democrats. And that's what it's about. It's about fighting, fighting, fighting, fighting.

CHUCK TODD:

It's funny you say that, Dan Balz, listen to Mitch McConnell. I think we actually have audio of this now, Mitch McConnell, fancy farm picnic, famous politic event. Here's his explanation for the upside of not getting health care done. Take a listen.

MITCH MCCONNELL:

Even on the night that we came up one vote short of our dream to repeal and replace Obamacare here's the first thing I thought about, feel better, Hillary Clinton could be president.

CHUCK TODD:

Talk about just underscoring David's point right there, Dan.

DAVID FRENCH:

Well, and it's, I mean, you saw that with President Trump this week in West Virginia, the same kind of message. It's an anti-anti-anti message. There's very little that either side, frankly, has put out positively since Trump was elected president. And actually before that.

I mean, I don’t think that—We know this didn't start with Donald Trump. This condition that we're in. But that is what's driving. If you look at the statistics on how people feel about their own party over the last 25 years, it's basically the same. They feel as good about their party as they did 20 or 25 years ago. When you look at how they feel about the opposition party, that line has gone straight down.

CHUCK TODD:

Wait until you see a marriage stat that I'm going to show people when it comes to marrying of the opposite political party. But Andrea, I guess the question is, is the Republican Party's problem Trump or the fact that they don't know what the definition of conservative is right now?

ANDREA MITCHELL:

I think it's a combination. And it's partly because they have this republican president who is not really a republican and not really a conservative. And what Jeff Flake was talking about is that he voted against prescription drugs. He voted against the George W. Bush proposals that busted the budget in his view.

He views himself as a real conservative. He's making a distinction between conservatism and populism. And I think that's a good conversation to have for Republicans as well as Democrats. What you're seeing, David, in your precinct and elsewhere, and we certainly see in West Virginia which is, you know, ground zero of Trump country is anger against elites. People feeling that they've been passed over.

Anger, you know, you see the stats on anger against elite colleges even among those who are college educated. Extraordinary. So it's anger against all of us, the media as well. And Trump has just tapped into that. And I really appreciated that Jeff Flake said the, "Lock her up," you know, those cries at the Republican Convention by Michael Flynn, no less, were—the call and response was really a nadir of what I view as the Republican party.

CHUCK TODD:

Heather, I want to—she referenced a stat here. I want to put it up here on this issue, sort of the anti-intellectual streak that's taking place in the Republican electorate. 58% of republicans believe colleges and universities have a negative effect on the way things are going in this country. I mean, it was a startling wait a minute, I thought we all agree college is good. We can have a debate about openness in ideologies at universities. But when did we go all the way there?

HEATHER MCGHEE:

Well, I think you really have to sort of follow the thread of this narrative. You know, Republican strategists began to really recognize how much more highly-educated folks were trending towards being more liberal. And we can talk about why that might be.

I mean, Republicans would say it's a nefarious liberal bias on campus. Others might say that it's actually the more that you study America's history and the world you understand how much we've fallen short on values of justice and equality. And you want to tend to work more veraciously towards those goals. But if you look at right-wing media, a narrative has really taken root. It's the like liberal outrage on campus of the day. And that's where that's coming from. There's been a real spotlight, a distortion I think of the news of what is coming out of college campuses that it's just very clear you start to see it pop up on Breitbart, you start to see it pop up on Fox News. And then it moves into the Republican voter.

CHUCK TODD:

David, you were just telling me a story about somebody accusing you of being in your ivory tower and it was a conservative who had a Penn education.

DAVID FRENCH:

Because I was talking about the importance of character in politics. And an Ivy League law student, conservative, told me I was an ivory tower conservative. I mean, which makes no sense.

HEATHER MCGHEE:

That's the right wing talking point now. I mean, that's a very clear--

ANDREA MITCHELL:

--And you're an Iraq war veteran.

DAVID FRENCH:

Right. Right.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

--On top of everything else.

DAVID FRENCH:

But I will say this about the college and university piece. And I'm sure we'll get to this later, nobody made up the Berkeley Riots. Nobody made up the attacks on, you know, on Charles Murray at Middlebury. The craziness at Evergreen State College. I mean, these things are actually happening. And they do really cast appall.

HEATHER MCGHEE:

They're actually happening. But also young people who are first-generation college students--

ANDREA MITCHELL:

That's right.

HEATHER MCGHEE:

--are going to college and having more opportunity than they ever would have had. But it's just that the ring-wing media is focusing on making a national story out of a speaker coming to campus.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And there are free speech--

HEATHER MCGHEE:

And so it's a distortion of what's happening on college campuses today.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

--throughout the Ivy League and elsewhere and the elite schools, there are free speech mandates really to permit these speakers. It is, as Heather points out, just the sort of the outliers who get focus.

CHUCK TODD:

But I want to go back to this issue because it feels as if, if there were simply a debate about conservatism versus populism it would be one thing. But it's Trump's character, Dan, that sort of, frankly, complicates the debate for the right.

DAN BALZ:

Well, it does. Although I think there's two problems that the Republican party has or two different debates that they're having. There's the debate that was occurring pre-Donald Trump which was in a sense kind of the Ted Cruz view of the world versus the Marco Rubio view of the world.

Do we need a hard-line conservative to carry our banner? Or do we need to have something that someone who reaches out and expands the coalition? That debate got smothered in 2016 by Donald Trump who brought in populism. And so you now have this multiple clash within the party. And Trump's behavior, Trump's style, Trump's operating style changes the way a lot of people think about all of those aspects.

HEATHER MCGHEE:

I think that Senator Flake has done a great service actually to the debate. I think that what he's doing right now is extremely important. You know, he says, "We, the Republican Party, created Donald Trump." I think that his diagnoses are spot on. I think his prescription about what to do about it is cosmetic. I mean, he says, you know, basically that Donald Trump is now a threat to Republicans, only the Congress can save him, stop him, and then he just falls a little bit short.

CHUCK TODD:

David, what should he do? You're still voting with him. Is he a threat or not? If you're character issues, when does the Trump ideology—last word.

DAVID FRENCH:

Well, you know, every one of us who's a conservative, I view you praise him when he's right, you critique when he's wrong. But you make the overall larger critique that something is very broken in our political culture. And he's a big part of that. And so you can vote for lower tax rates. But don't lose sight of the bigger picture which says Donald Trump is doing something to American body politic that is very, very negative.

DAN BALZ:

I mean, one aspect--

CHUCK TODD:

All right, I'm going to have to make that the last thought. I promise we're going to get into this on the other side. We've got more time for all of you, I promise. Coming up though, the man who embodies many of the changes the Democratic Party has gone through over the last four decades, California Governor Jerry Brown.

***COMMERCIAL NOT TRANSCRIBED***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, data download time. We've been diving into the fractures inside the Republican Party. And we're going to look at those fractures that the Democrats have next. But what about the folks in the middle? The disappearing center in American politics is as big of a crisis as we're seeing in the parties themselves. So how did we get here?

We're going to start by looking at the red-blue map of Congressional district after the 1998 mid-terms, the last Congressional election of the 20th century. And as you'll see here it looks a fairly split map, if you will. Fairly competitive, particularly on the east of the Mississippi. And you see there in the border states both lower Midwest, upper South, fairly competitive.

Now look at the changes in less than 20 years when you move over to the 2016 Congressional map. As you can see, the border states, lower, Midwest, now solid Republican. The Northeast more Democrat than it was before. Though you have a couple of large districts out there that make it seem otherwise.

But you could see the Democrats have become coastal and the Republicans dominating the middle there from literally all the way across the country. So let's look at two districts that tell you this story, swing districts started disappearing with them. A certain kind of congressman or congresswoman has sort of left the Congress these days.

Let me explain, look in Texas second Congressional district. It was long-held by conservative Democrats blue dogs, as they are described. In 1998, a Democratic blue dog won the seat by 17 points. Now, it's solidly in the red column. A Republican won last November by 25 points.

The reverse is true though in Connecticut's fourth. In 1998, the more liberal New England Republicans weren't the rare breeds that they are today. They won that seat by a whopping 39 points. In 2016 though, a Democrat won that same district, that same high-income suburban area in Connecticut by 20 points. A 60-point swing in less than two decades. So what does this mean? It means that we no longer have any ideological middle ground in our politics. The ideological diversity is gone out of both parties. Again, look at the House of Representatives. In 2002, 137 members fell in what was described as the ideological center, according to National Journal’s rankings.

Meaning those members of Congress had voting records somewhere in between the most conservative Democrat and the most liberal Republican. In 2013, that number was down to four. Four members of Congress falling in the so-called middle.

This trend over the last 20 years has eliminated that ideological diversity within the two parties. And it's left centrists to choose between what they see as the least offensive option. And probably only depends on where they live is how they vote. When we come back, Governor Jerry Brown of California and what's ailing the Democratic Party.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

GOVERNOR JIM JUSTICE:

Like it or not like it, but the Democrats walked away from me. Today I'll tell you, as West Virginians, I can't help you anymore being a Democrat governor.

CHUCK TODD:

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice's high-profile party switch this week raised new questions about whether Democrats can survive in Trump country. And if they're against Trump it's not so clear what the Democrats are for. They are buoyed by anger and activism with liberals fighting moderates and Bernie-crats fighting Clinton-ites and the cultural left fighting the economic left.

One Democrat has managed to bridge those divides over more than four decades. It's Governor Jerry Brown who has reinvented himself as a populist and a pragmatist. The California liberal who sometimes is a fiscal conservative. And joining me now is the Democratic governor of California, Jerry Brown. Governor Brown, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

GOV. JERRY BROWN: Well, thank you. I've been doing this a long time.

CHUCK TODD: I know you have, and we like having you as a guest. This week, the ranks of Democratic governors shrunk by one. Jim Justice, the governor of West Virginia, publicly switched parties. Did so at a big event with the president. We can debate the authenticity of Governor Justice and how long he was a Democrat versus a Republican, but the numbers are stark. We're down to 15 governorships for the Democrats; we're up to a record number 34 for the Republicans. How did the Democrats get into that mess?

GOV. JERRY BROWN: How did they get into the mess? Well, that's quite a story. A number of factors. Certainly, the Republicans had something to do with it. The barrage, the relentless drumbeat of opposition that's been well financed by the Koch brothers, by other Republican activists. That's been effective.

I think the Affordable Care Act was stigmatized. It was very large. It was something very new. That became a big problem. And I think also just the historic turn. You know, if you look at George Bush, Sr.; he was followed by Clinton; Clinton was followed by Bush; Bush followed by Obama; Obama, now we didn't get Hillary, we got Trump.

So the wheels of fortune in politics turn. And I've seen cases where, when Lyndon Johnson won overwhelmingly against Goldwater, people were writing, and I read it at the time, that the Republican Party was gone. And then it comes back, and the Democratic Party comes back. So the nature of our business is that swing of the pendulum, and it is definitely already swinging back toward a non-Republican kind of future.

CHUCK TODD: Okay, obviously you believe and you just outlined that some of this can be cyclical in nature. I hear you there. There was an interesting survey though conducted on behalf of House Democrats, the House Democratic leadership, when they're trying to figure out how have they lost touch with white, working-class voters, non-college educated white voters.

And in this survey, it noted that there's a lot of work to do. There's a lot of distrust, if you will, from these white working-class voters, who were Democrats 20 years ago, 30 years ago, and do not trust the Democrats even on the economy now. How did that happen?

GOV. JERRY BROWN: It happened because the global economy is changing. America is losing manufacturing jobs both to foreign countries, but also to technology, automation, innovation, and all of that. So we're going through a real transition. If you look at democratic countries around the world, whether it's South Korea or Brazil or in Europe, there's a lot of discontent.

And that discontent is because, I believe, that the foundations, the very basis of our expectations, particularly working people, people in the middle class, people in more vulnerable positions, highly insecure. And what do you do about that? They're skeptical of more government because governments in power have been presiding while people's life chances have deteriorated.

In America, college education has gone from essentially free to now we have a trillion dollars of debt. Home prices are out of the reach of many people. And jobs, downward mobility, insecurity, and all the rest of it. This is a global phenomenon, and Democrats have been the champion of working people, and they haven't been able to deliver in face of these global trends. And, yes, you'd have to say that leadership has not been clever enough, or strong enough, or perhaps visionary enough.

CHUCK TODD: Well, it's interesting you say that because I looked that survey, and you look at specific policy proposals I've seen Democrats offer over the years, and you think, "Okay, that is addressing a concern you hear from working class America." But I've watched a lot of these elections and they're not decided by the economy, they're decided by culture. And it seems this is the bridge that Democrats have to figure out how to cross, or move past, if they're ever going to have majorities in some of these states.

GOV. JERRY BROWN: Well, that's another aspect of this global change. We've seen the mainline churches lose membership; the pews are more empty than ever before. And what is acceptable today was unthinkable 50 years ago. So there is a cultural shift with the economic shift. And then the influx of new people, visitors, immigrants, and all the rest of it, it's quite shocking.

And speaking as someone who's been around for quite a while, my first office was in 1969, the atmosphere, the political picture of what we perceive and experience is profoundly different. And that scares people. And the Republicans have been pretty good at working that issue. But no one, Republican or Democrat, has really been able to return security and a sense of wellbeing to all those parts of America that are so anxious and concerned about the way the world is going.

CHUCK TODD: Well, you mention about how you thought you maybe the national Democratic leadership hasn't been clever enough, perhaps either on the economic issue and--

GOV. JERRY BROWN: Or visionary enough. I don't want to make the point, because it isn't true, that it's just a matter of clever. No, it takes values, believing in right and wrong and a sense of what America's all about. And it takes a certain vision, how the hell do we get out of this? And it takes some political skill at the same time. All three of those things.

CHUCK TODD: One of the reasons I wanted you on this show to talk about this specifically is because you've seen so many of these moments inside the Democratic Party. Some would argue you've symbolized them. I'm going to play clips from two different announcement speeches of yours. One is for president in 1992, and one is for governor in 2010. Take a listen, and I want to talk about it on the other side.

(BEGIN TAPE)

JERRY BROWN #1: Our democracy has been the object of a hostile takeover engineered by a confederacy of corruption, careerism, and campaign consultants. The leaders of Washington's incumbent party, both Democrats and Representatives, have failed their duties.

JERRY BROWN CLIP #2: Republicans and Democrats, oil companies and environmentalists, unions and businesses, we need to work together as Californians first.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD: You could look at that and say, "Boy, first Jerry Brown sounded like Bernie Sanders. Second Jerry Brown sounded more like Hillary Clinton,” to put it in 2016 context. What's your take of the two differences between the two Jerry Brown announcement speeches there?

GOV. JERRY BROWN: By the way, you're wrong. They fit perfectly together. The first one is calling attention to the bankruptcy of Washington, which we're now talking about. The second one is saying, "Okay, the solution to that bankruptcy is leadership that can work together across party lines, across the various interest groups." So one is the problem, and the other's the solution.

CHUCK TODD: Well, there you have the rub, and I say this because what do you do? How do you tell the Democratic base that says, "Look, sometimes you've got to compromise." So, for instance, the issue of abortion. We talked about culture. You've got some inside the Democratic Party, some major Democratic leaders from a senator in New York, Kirsten Gillibrand, to others who think, you know what? The Democratic Party, should not support -- abortion should be a litmus test, should not support Democrats who are not pro choice on abortion.

But you have people like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer who say, "You know what? The Democrats need to be a big tent." And sometimes you have Democrats that will say they love what you say when you announce, but, "Wait a minute. Why are you working with the other side and compromising some of your principles?" How do you square those two? How do you tell the Democratic base, "You've got to learn to compromise"?

GOV. JERRY BROWN: Well, first of all, I don't know who this Democratic base is. It's shifting. The segments of our party are highly differentiated. There are environmentalists; there are gun owners; there are pro choice people; there are religious fundamentalists, not very many, but they're there.

So I'd say, look, even on the abortion issue, it wasn't very long ago that a number of Catholic Democrats were opposed to abortion. So the fact that somebody believes today what most people believed 50 years ago should not be the basis for their exclusion. In America, we're not ideological. We're not like a Marxist party in 1910. We are big tent by the very definition. We're not ideological in the European sense of what political parties used to be. Even in Europe now, they don't have that same ideological purity.

America is not one place. Alabama is not San Francisco or California. To come together, as a great Jesuit once said, everything that rises, converges. So we have to rise above some of our most cherished ideological inclinations and find a common basis. And the economy has often been that common basis, or security in the world could be a part of that common basis. But you can't let these hot button issues, that work great in particular congressional districts one way or the other, to be the guiding light for a national party that covers a very wide spectrum of belief.

CHUCK TODD: So you don't believe there should be a litmus test on abortion? Or is there an issue there should be one on, for the Democrats?

GOV. JERRY BROWN: Well, the litmus test should be intelligence, caring about, as Harry Truman or Roosevelt used to call it, the common man. We're not going to get everybody on board. And I'm sorry, but running in San Francisco is not like running in Tulare County or Modoc, California, much less Mobile, Alabama.

If we want to be a governing party of a very diverse, and I say diverse ideologically as well as ethnically country, well, then you have to have a party that rises above the more particular issues to the generic, the general issue of making America great, if I might take that word.

CHUCK TODD: So six months after this election, I guess we're now closer to nine or ten months after this election, how do you answer the question of why Hillary Clinton lost?

GOV. JERRY BROWN: Well, I'd start with the fact that America doesn't like third terms. After Bill Clinton, we got a Republican. After Bush, the second Bush, we got a Democrat. It's very hard to stay in the shoes of an incumbent and, in effect, have the third term. And those Democrats in Ohio and the rust belt in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, they said, "You know, we've had Obama. Whatever he was doing, I still feel insecure. My pay is going down. My job is disappearing. So I'd better try this other guy. He's really off the wall, but I'm desperate. I'm ready to try something."

And Hillary had other issues in just her presentation and some of the things that constitute her background. But I think the overall context was not favorable for a Democrat at this particular election.

CHUCK TODD: Going into this 2018 midterms, somebody who has been close to you for a long time, Nancy Pelosi I believe was your Maryland state chair--

GOV. JERRY BROWN: She was.

CHUCK TODD: --back in the day when you ran for president the first time. So you're very close--

GOV. JERRY BROWN: Yeah, by the way, that was the high mark of my political career. It's been downhill ever since.

CHUCK TODD: Fair enough. Her image, her unpopularity was among the reasons why some Democrats believe they lost that Georgia special election that was very high profile at the time. She has a very high number. There are some House Democrats that say, "You know what? She is too much weight to carry in order to win back the House." That Republicans will be able to successfully use her against Democrats. What's your advice to Nancy Pelosi in how to deal with this?

GOV. JERRY BROWN: Well, I'd say we have to recruit better candidates. I always hold the candidate responsible. So if some candidate doesn't win, don't blame it on somebody else, like Nancy Pelosi. I know her very well. She's really dedicated. She works very hard for this party. And the answer is you've got to get good candidates.

And as a candidate, when you're running in a Republican district, if you're a Democrat, you better be extraordinary. And you have to relate to a very different kind of constituency than we have here in San Francisco or in New York City. So I think Nancy Pelosi has a lot of assets. Is she perfect? No. Am I perfect? No, and you aren't. So we all have our imperfections.

If you added up pluses and minuses, I think Nancy Pelosi is a major pillar of the Democratic Party. And the answer is not to try to replace her with somebody, but to make sure the candidates represent and can empathize and be a part of the district they're running in.

CHUCK TODD:

Couple of California questions I want to ask you that relate to the federal government. There's a bill that's moving through the state legislature that would declare California a sanctuary state. You've not indicated whether you're going to be fully supportive of this just yet. Are you? Could you be? And where are you on this idea of suing the federal government over funds that they may withhold if they declare a city a sanctuary city?

GOV. JERRY BROWN:

Yeah. Well, first of all, that bill does not declare California a sanctuary state, number one. Number two, it's still going through the process. We're looking at it very carefully. We're having discussions with the author. There are some changes that I think would be very important--

CHUCK TODD:

Why do you believe it isn't fair to call that that it declares California-- explain why--

GOV. JERRY BROWN:

Because--

CHUCK TODD:

--that you don't like that phrase?

GOV. JERRY BROWN:

Well, as a former seminarian, I have a very clear image of the sanctuary. It's in a church. It conjures up Medieval sanctuary places. And it says more than a specific set of legislative requirements, which the goal here is to block and not to collaborate with abuse of federal power. That's the goal.

And we want to be very understanding of people who have come to our state, have worked in our economy, often for decades, picking our food, working in our restaurants, working in high tech industries, the whole range of what constitutes the life of California has been contributed to by many of these immigrants that are not documented. And we want to make sure we help them to the extent that the law of California can coexist with the law of the United States.

So it is a balancing act. It does require some sensitivity. And that's why I take a more nuanced and careful approach to dealing with what is a difficult problem. Because you do have people who are not here legally, they've committed crimes. They have no business in the United States in the manner in which they've come and conducted themselves subsequently.

Secondly, as far as the lawsuit, that's something that our independent attorney general can decide. But it might just be very helpful to get into court and resolve this in a judicial forum rather than in the rhetoric of politicians talking past one another.

CHUCK TODD:

I guess, you know, some would respond and just say, "Look, you don't like the way the law is. Why don't we change the law rather than have a debate about how to enforce the law if there's ambiguity in there?"

GOV. JERRY BROWN:

Well, wait a minute. If the law is ambiguous, we can often clarify it by litigation. This is perhaps a rather small test because the money at stake is not very much. And there is this different view. There's plenty of different views, by the way, on the environment, not just immigration, on health care, on a whole variety of topics. The current administration, under Mr. Trump, is going way, way over the deep end. So I think appropriate court challenges-- by the way, the Republicans were bringing court challenges--

CHUCK TODD:

Oh yeah.

GOV. JERRY BROWN:

--by the carload against Obama on the environment, on health care, and all the rest. So I think a few judicious forums to resolve this dispute between the federal government and California I think can be very helpful for the whole country, and in a dispassionate way. Because this back and forth by politicians, it doesn't really clarify some of the difficulties of the paramount law of the federal government colliding with the sovereign law of the 50 states.

CHUCK TODD:

And finally, I know you were just recently in China in June meeting with President Xi there, talking about you, and I know Michael Bloomberg, putting together sort of a state/city climate compact. Can you make this compact big enough that somehow it doesn't matter whether or not the president goes back into the Paris agreement or not? Can you do enough in the state and local level that it would be the equivalent as if the United States had stayed in the Paris Climate Accord?

GOV. JERRY BROWN:

I don't believe so. We need the president. We need the federal government. We can do a lot, and many, many states are joining together, and our climate alliance I think will have a powerful impact. But I'd like to say something about this China business.

I met with President Xi for almost an hour. This is a very determined man. He's building roads and high speed rail, not just in China, but all over the world. And we look at Washington, Washington can't even build roads and bridges in our own country, much less spreading the American dream all around the world. If we're going to be the great power we all want to be, we're going to have to start rolling up our sleeves, raising some revenue, and getting the job done. In terms of climate change, it isn't an existential threat. It is not a hoax. It was not created in China. It is something that the majority, 95% of scientists believe in the science of climate change. We've got to do something. It is life threatening over a relatively foreseeable amount of time.

And secondly, you didn't ask, but I've got to inject it. The Congress right now is going for a military authorization bill that purports to tear up treaties that are the basis of arms control. If we go down that route, and we retreat on climate change, and we exacerbate the nuclear arms race by tearing up our only basic arms treaties, America and the world will be in deep, deep trouble.

CHUCK TODD:

Your term runs out at the end of next year. You don't sound like somebody who's done in politics.

GOV. JERRY BROWN:

Well, I have a lot to say, I have a lot to learn, and I have a lot to collaborate with. And I'll keep doing that. I'm going back to the ranch. There was a Roman general named--

CHUCK TODD:

You have a ranch? I didn't think you had a ranch.

GOV. JERRY BROWN:

I have a ranch--

CHUCK TODD:

Or is it proverbial?

GOV. JERRY BROWN:

No, my great-grandfather came out here not long after the gold rush. And as a good, tough German, he built up the land, and we kept it in our family. And I'm building a house where he had a stagecoach stop in the 1870s. So like Cincinnatus in ancient Rome, he saved the Republic, and then he went back to the plow. So I'll be on my plow, you can find me there.

CHUCK TODD:

Never say never on running for office again?

GOV. JERRY BROWN:

I never say never, that is a true statement.

CHUCK TODD:

Fair enough. Governor Jerry Brown, thanks for coming on. Always a pleasure to hear you share your views here --

GOV. JERRY BROWN:

Okay, thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you, sir.

GOV. JERRY BROWN:

Sure.

CHUCK TODD:

We'll be back after the break with end game. We know our politics are broken. So are there some realistic solutions?

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with end game. All right, Heather, you get to start on this one. This is your side of the umbrella here. It was interesting to watch Jerry Brown. He has straddled this fight. And I think you always articulate this very well. It's basically the social justice wing of the party versus the economic wing. And while I know you'll make an argument that you can do the two together there is a split here, isn't there?

HEATHER MCGHEE:

I think there has been a split. And it's really driven by consultants. It's really driven by this desire to sort of micro-target an audience rather than give a unified message. And I think the key thing to watch here is the millennial generation and younger who are going to be 90 million stronger in the 2020 election, who more than anyone are feeling like they inherited, we, I'm like a millennial grandmother here, inherited an economy that is completely broken, a politics that is broken.

And people are looking for a populism, but a multi-racial populism. They're looking for candidates who say, "I'm willing to take on the wealthy and powerful and also I'm not willing to let the wealthy and powerful divide us from each other so that they can have the spoils of our great nation."

And that is actually I think the message that unites identity and class because we've seen, frankly, the right wing in one breath talk about what's wrong with the economy and scapegoat people of color and immigrants. And I think progressives really need to similarly understand how to weave those messages together.

CHUCK TODD:

The ‘or’ versus the ‘and’ is what you're having. And seems like Democrats have struggled with figuring out an ‘and’ message.

DAN BALZ:

Yeah, I think, I mean, I think what you have articulated is the ideal. And I think the real at this point is that the Democrats are still a long way from that. I think Democrats are still trying to figure out exactly who they want to appeal to. Do they appeal to the rising generation? Do they appeal to white-working class? They haven't figured out an overall message. I mean, as Governor Brown said, you have to rise above certain individual issues to have a larger vision. And I think that's what's been missing in the Democrats.

HEATHER MCGHEE:

Well, but the--

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And--

HEATHER MCGHEE:

--Democrats unveiled, sorry, Andrea. But Democrats unveiled something, God, it feels like a lifetime ago, it was maybe ten days ago, that was saying, you know what, we are from, you know, they actually Schumer was able to get every Democrat in the Senate on an agenda that's a relatively populist economic agenda that's a ‘better deal.’ Saying we're willing to take on corporations and create a better deal for workers with higher wages, better trade policies, more benefits. That was a huge step forward. I mean, I remember being in Washington and trying to convince the Democratic Party to support big reforms on the affordability of college. And the answer was, "We want to tweak interest rates."

CHUCK TODD:

Well, it is though, they've responded to Trump. This is their response to Trump.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

But I think that Jerry Brown, Governor Brown is really onto something when he says that the Democrats have to be visionary. And even in better deal I don't see anything that's visionary. It's actually a throwback to FDR and it goes so far back. We're not looking forward as a nation, Republican or Democratic Parties to be more visionary, to be more inclusive in a really profound way.

He's talking about it as the leader of a very diverse state who has evolved so much since I first covered him in the '80s and '90s when he was first running for president and had a much narrower view. I mean, he said, "You're wrong, Chuck," that there's no difference. But there is really a difference.

CHUCK TODD:

He's evolved. He's evolved from--

ANDREA MITCHELL:

As successful politicians do.

DAVID FRENCH:

And if I can jump here, look, as a conservative, I live in Tennessee now. But I've lived in Manhattan, I've lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Center City, Philly. And here's something that progressives really got to work on, and it's one word, an intolerance.

At the grassroots of the progressive movement there is an enormous amount of intolerance for ideological difference. It's not just my 80% friend is my 80% friend. It's my 80% friend is my 1,000% enemy and also a monstrous human being. You see that an awful lot on college campuses--to go back to what we talked about. You see this on the ground in progressive urban centers. There's a huge amount of intolerance. And people around the country see this and reject it. They're repulsed by it.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

But one of the things that really strikes me, when we talk about college campuses and millennial is the sort of tuning out of politics, elective politics. And it gets back to what I think really need to see in both parties is focusing on legislatures and on governors and thinking and not being afraid of being purged from the roles.

And that is a very effective strategy by, you know, the extremes of the right wing right now is trying to claim that there was election fraud and taking this fake commission and making it into a real, a fear-factor for people who won't tip their toes into elective politics.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to pivot here a little bit to we've been talking about the problems. Let's try to get some solutions. But there's some structural issues here. As we said at the top of the broadcast many reasons for the current broken politics. You could say it started with gerrymandering, partisan drawing of districts to help the party doing the redrawing.

Then gerrymandering became more precise as technology made it easier to draw the perfect political map. Then legislation designed to guarantee minority representation, actually, you could say accelerated political segregation. I'll get into that in a minute.

White districts vote largely for Republicans now and help the GOP take the house in '94 for the first time in 40 years. And yet all of those white voters meant they haven't learned how to talk to minority voters. Then you've got McCain-Feingold campaign finance law was supposed to take money out of politics.

Instead it prompted Citizens United decision. It simply shifted the money to interest groups and then political parties lost control of their party. And now the interest groups have more purging power. The point is, Dan Balz, is there isn't one answer. People will say, "It's better districts. It's this, it's that." We are in, technology has messed this up. There's an entire now structure of our politics that no longer persuades. All of it has led to we do not try to persuade and win an argument. We just try to find people that agree with us in order to win an election.

DAN BALZ:

This is not a solution. But in one way or another if you eliminated many of the committees like the Democrat and Republican campaign committees from the face of the map you might begin to get a different dialogue in terms of campaigns. I mean, the industry of politics over the time I've been in Washington, which is a long time now, has, you know, grown and grown and grown. There's a full-time industry design.

CHUCK TODD:

It's an industry. How about the fact that it's an industry.

DAN BALZ:

It's an industry. But it's an industry designed to demonize and destroy the opposition as opposed to talking about what we were talking about which is providing a more visionary or more uplifting--

ANDREA MITCHELL:

But money is the root of that. I mean, McCain-Feingold--

DAN BALZ:

Money is part of the root of that.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

--I wouldn't say part of it.

CHUCK TODD:

But you can't say it's all money though.

DAN BALZ:

No.

CHUCK TODD:

I mean, it is sort of this structural--

ANDREA MITCHELL:

But it fuels the-- and industries are based on finance.

CHUCK TODD:

Here's what we're spiraling toward. And I'm going to end with this stat here and get you guys, by 2040 this sort of self-segregation that we've done that was sort of started with gerrymandering, in 70% of the country is going to be represented by 30 U.S. senators and 30% of the country's going to be represented by 70 U.S. senators.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

It's astounding.

CHUCK TODD:

If we continue to have a geographic split in this country that goes along party lines that is a disaster in the making, is it not, David French?

DAVID FRENCH:

Yeah. I mean, I've categorized it this way, it's like we're heading for a national divorce. I mean, not anytime soon. But the trends are that we're separating from each other and we don't like each other. And we don't watch what each other watches on television. Increasingly we don't even watch the same sports except for the Super Bowl. I mean, we're beginning to self-segregate. And then also we're losing that sense of individual responsibility that says, "I am in primary control of my life."

CHUCK TODD:

No, you can blame somebody else.

DAVID FRENCH:

Yeah. Well, it's the politicians. They're going to help us.

CHUCK TODD:

Heather, your response on this?

HEATHER MCGHEE:

Well, I mean, you ask about what is a big solution that could potentially, you know, change and fix our broken politics. I do think we have to realize that democracy is a pretty radical idea that each generation has to recommit to. And that fundamentally the system of our democracy is not working that is, you know, we need deep money in politics reforms and we need universal automatic voter registration. We need everybody in. And then that point of are we a Demos? I mean, the name of my organization means the people of a nation. Are we a people who feel like we are united by a shared faith? And that has to do with the discourse.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I will end it there. What a great discussion. You guys did your job on discourse on this. So thank you. All, that's all we have for today. We'll be back next week because as you know if it's Sunday, it’s Meet the Press.

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *