Guests: Senators Brown, Blumenthal & Murphy

By Rachel Maddow Show, Rachel Maddow Show - January 24, 2013


Guests: Richard Blumenthal, Chris Murphy, Sherrod Brown

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thank you, my friend.


MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

It is a weird paradox in 21st century American politics. A lot more people call themselves conservatives than call themselves liberals. But liberal ideas are really widely popular. In fact, a lot of people who would never call themselves liberal are very much in favor of liberal policies. It`s been true for a long time.

But if you take a current example, take for example President Obama`s inaugural address this week. Conservatives, of course, were outraged that it was such a liberal speech. Liberals were delighted that it was such a liberal speech. And everybody agreed that it was such a profoundly liberal speech that the president gave for his second inaugural address.

And it wasn`t just liberal in the abstract. It was liberal in the specific, in the sense that he proposed and endorsed a whole bunch of liberal policy ideas. Like for example, his endorsement in the speech of marriage equality. It was a big moment in the speech, right, because no president had ever talked about gay people before, ever before in any inaugural address. It was also a landmark thing for this president, who did not publicly support same-sex marriage rights until well into his time being president.

But there it was right in the inaugural address, calling for marriage equality. Right there in the inaugural address. That is freaking liberal.

Also, that is the majority view held by most Americans. The NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll that came out last month polled on same-sex marriage rights, a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage rights. So it`s liberal, but it`s also what the majority believes.

Same thing on immigration. Part of the reason everybody called the inaugural such a liberal speech is because the president had a big multi- sentence, full-throated endorsement of immigration reform. Even if you came here illegally, there should be some path by which you should be able to seek citizenship to become legal, to be officially welcomed and brought into this country. That is freaking liberal, right?

It is also the majority view of most Americans. NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll from this month, from January, finds that a majority of Americans support giving illegal immigrants the ability to apply for legal status. It`s a liberal idea. It`s also what most Americans believe.

The other reason everybody thought the inaugural address was so capital L liberal, liberal, liberal was because of the president`s shout out by name of Medicare and Social Security, which in the beltway are horrible, embarrassing profligacies that are mostly good for divining who counts as a serious person in Washington because you cannot be a serious person in Washington -- according to the Beltway -- unless you want to get rid of those programs, or at least you see those programs as a problem that needs to be addressed.

President Obama in his inaugural not only name-checked Medicare and Social Security in a positive way, he defended them. He said he will support them and that they are good for the country.

The only people other than a liberal like Barack Obama who likes Social Security and Medicare is everybody. Really, it`s only in Washington where these are controversial programs. If you ask the country, the country`s kind of in love with Social Security and Medicare and thinks that they work and thinks that we should not cut them.

Broadly speaking, most Americans do not call themselves liberals if you ask. But broadly speaking, most Americans are in favor of liberal ideas. The marquee signifiers of liberal policy are broadly accepted as good ideas by most of the country. And that has been true for a long time.

But the gears that you see clinking over each other, the gears that you see churning in Democratic politics right now, the work that is being done in Democratic politics right now, led by President Obama at the start of his second term is this effort to turn what has been long-standing majority support for liberal policies into appreciation that those policies aren`t just individual free-floating, technocratically good ideas that we all agree on. Those policies come from a worldview and a problem-solving approach that is in fact the governing philosophy of this country.

We`re a liberal country. We are not a center-right country the way the right always wants to tell us. We are a country where liberal policies are widely popular. And, frankly, at the national level we express that right now by mostly voting for Democrats, by a lot.

That`s the portrait of the country that the president was painting this week in his second inaugural, in tying this list of what get described as liberal policies to fundamental centrist, widely acknowledged, basically universal American values.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Today, we continue a never ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing. That while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by his people here on earth.


MADDOW: And then, President Obama goes on in the speech to list as examples of the ways that we must secure those American values now in our time, he lists the specific policies of equal pay for equal work, and marriage equality, and election reform, and immigration reform and a policy response to help us reduce gun violence.


OBAMA: Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm. That is our generation`s task. To make these words, these rights, these values, of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American.


MADDOW: Tying the policies which he is associated with and which are associated with his party and which are associated with a liberal idea of American governance to the basic fundamental ideas of what America is. That was the whole point, right?

As with the other issues that President Obama name-checked so specifically in his inaugural address this week, the things that got his speech branded as so liberal this week, what President Obama was alluding to there at the end by bringing up gun violence in his inaugural address is a set of policies that he and Vice President Biden have proposed for dealing with gun policies.

And these policies get labeled liberal. But it turns out they are very popular. They are very, very, very widely popular. Gallup just did a national poll on the whole list of proposal as that President Obama and Vice President Biden have put forward on gun violence.

Banning high-capacity ammo clips. That gets majority support in this country, 54 percent.

Reinstating and strengthening the assault weapons ban we had for 10 years that expired back in `04. Majority support -- look at that -- 60 percent of the country wants that.

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