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updated 9/29/2010 11:36:03 AM ET 2010-09-29T15:36:03

Guests: Sam Stein, Jan Schakowsky

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST:  Now to discuss what the Democrats would prefer to run away from rather than run on—ladies and gentlemen, here is the invaluable Rachel Maddow.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Invaluable.  Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN:  Well, I‘m not—it‘s not me saying that, that was the deputy press secretary who said that.

MADDOW:  Well, you too are invaluable if I remember the quote correctly, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Well, I wasn‘t going to point that out—but thank you for doing so.

MADDOW:  Well done and very subtle.  Thank you, Keith.

And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour, during which, I hereby promise we will talk about white supremacist football—white supremacist football and its connection to one insane New York congressional race.

Do not try this at home.  This is stunt wingnuttery to be handled by professionals only.  You are in good hands.  We can handle this.  White supremacist football, I didn‘t make it up.

That is coming up later on this hour.

But we begin tonight at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where President Obama has just launched a new get-out-the-vote effort simulcast in universities across the country.  When the president spoke at this same Wisconsin campus in early 2008 during the presidential primaries, the 17,000-strong crowd that turned out to see him that night in ‘08 made major headlines for his then campaign.  Seventeen thousand people turning out at a campaign rally.

Well, tonight, Mr. Obama was back at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.  And the crowd this time was bigger.  It was a bigger crowd this time to see him as president, speaking outside at the campus instead of inside at the Kohl Center Arena like he did last time.  The president tonight addressed a crowd that university police estimate at more than 26,000 people.

Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The prediction among the pundits is there‘s going to be a blood letting for Democrats.  That‘s what they‘re saying in Washington.  And what they‘re saying is—and the basis of their prediction is that all of you, who work so hard in 2008, aren‘t going to be as energized, aren‘t going to be as engaged.  They say there is an enthusiasm gap and that the same Republicans and the same policies that left our economy in a shamble and the middle class struggling might rise back into power.

Now, that‘s what they‘re saying.  I‘m not making this up.  You guys read the papers.  You guys are watching the television.  They‘re basically saying that you‘re apathetic, you‘re disappointed, you‘re, oh, well, we‘re not sure that we‘re going to turn out.

Wisconsin, we can‘t let that happen.  We cannot sit this one out.  We can‘t let this country fall backwards because the rest of us didn‘t care enough to fight.

The stakes are too high for our country and for your future, and I am going to get out there and fight as hard as I can.  And I know you are too to make sure we keep moving forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The president‘s voice straining as he shouts “To make sure we keep moving forward.”  To make his case for Democratic voters to turn out in the fall, to not just raise the volume but try to make the case—the president listed what his administration has achieved in the first 20 months.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  To help middle class families get ahead, we passed a tax cut for 95 percent of working families.  I want to repeat that.  We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families because if you were listening to the other side, you‘d think we raised taxes.

But, again, we deal in facts.  And the fact is we cut taxes for 95 percent of working families.

We passed 16 different tax cuts for America‘s small business owners who create the majority of jobs in this country.

We passed health care reform that will stop insurance companies from denying you coverage or dropping you coverage because you were sick.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Notice that was not supposed to be an applause line.  As soon as he said, “We passed health care reform,” the crowd goes wild.  Imagine that, people like it.  They really like it.  Imagine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  We have made progress over the last 20 months.  And that is the progress that you worked so hard for in 2008.

Now, we didn‘t get everything done.  Sometimes people say, well, you know, this item, not done, that item—well—I‘ve only been here two years, guys.  You know, if you look at the checklist, we‘ve already covered about 70 percent.  So, I figured I need to have something to do for the next couple of years.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  And look, here‘s the fact—here‘s the fact is that we‘re not where we need to be, not even close.  The hole that we‘re climbing out of is a deep one.

People, I want you to understand the magnitude of what we‘ve gone through.  This is deeper than the last three recessions combined.  Most of the jobs we lost took place before any of our economic policies had a chance to take effect.  And on top of that, the middle class has been struggling for more than a decade and jobs have been shipped overseas and millions of families were still treading water.

Millions are still barely able to make their bills or make the mortgage.  I hear the stories every day.  I read them in just heartbreaking letters that I receive each night.

So, I understand the people are frustrated.  I understand people are impatient with the pace of change.  Of course they are.

Look, I‘m impatient, but I also know this—now is not the time to lose heart.  Now is not the time to give up.  We do not quit.  And we cannot forget that this nation has been through far worse—

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  -- and we have come out stronger from war to depression to the great struggle for equal rights and civil rights.  We do not quit.

If everybody who fought for change in 2008 shows up to vote in 2010, we will win.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  We will win.  The polls say the same thing.  We will win.

So, what the other side—you know what the other side is counting on this time around?  They‘re counting on you staying home.  They‘re counting on your silence.  They‘re counting on amnesia.  They‘re betting on your apathy, especially because a lot of you are young folks.

So, Madison, you‘ve got to prove them wrong.  Let‘s show Washington one more time.  Change doesn‘t come from the top.  It doesn‘t come from millions of dollars of special interest fund and attack ads.

Change happens from the bottom up.  Change happens because of you. 

Change happens because of you.  Change happens because of you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Joining us now is “Huffington Post” political reporter, Sam Stein.

Sam, thanks very much for your time.  It‘s nice to see you.

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST:  Hi, Rachel.

MADDOW:  So, this is not the kind of event, not the kind of speech we have seen from President Obama in a long time.  Is this a one-off?  Or does your reporting suggest that this is a new White House strategy for the election?

STEIN:  Well, I think it‘s part of a broader new strategy designed ostensibly to get the base out, to get Democratic voters more excited.  And, you know, it‘s much more motivational than scolding, which is what we‘ve seen from the White House in the past couple of day, if not weeks.

He‘s telling the base, you know, I realize that things haven‘t been perfect, but we‘ve gone so far.  Let‘s do two more years.

And, you know, the thing is, is that when you tell voters to come out because there‘s more to achieve, it‘s much more effectual than I think saying, you know, stop whining, we‘ve done all this, now, you should go vote again.  And I think the president probably took a cue that the coverage that he and his vice president got over the past couple of days and refigured the message.

MADDOW:  The “stop whining” strategy is known around our offices and a lot of long the dark (ph) corners of the Internet as the “punch the hippie” strategy.

STEIN:  Yes.

MADDOW:  I‘m sure you are familiar with.

Is it your sense that the “punch the hippie” strategy is getting enough pushback from the White House that pushback is bogging them, that they might actually let that go and stop yelling at liberals, and instead turn them more of what the president was doing tonight?

STEIN:  Yes.  I mean, I think there‘s a general frustration within the White House and the people I talked to who are high up who they think they don‘t get enough credit for what they‘ve done.  And in some respects, they‘re right.

On the same hand, they realize that there‘s no benefit, I guess, to punching the hippie, to saying that they‘re whiners, or to telling voters to buck up.  A lot of people out there are frustrated not just because of certain political policies having passed, but because the economy still sucks.  And to tell them that they shouldn‘t be upset and they should go out and vote for the president who is sort of inherently dismissing the struggles that they feel.

MADDOW:  Who is more mobilizable (ph), which is not a word, for the White House right now?

STEIN:  Now it is.  Yes.

MADDOW:  Who do they see as more—as a group that is more likely to be mobilized to get out the vote, to be enthusiastic about voting for November?  Is it young voters, the kind of people who you would have in college audiences like you saw tonight?  Young voters, of course, who don‘t usually turn out in great numbers for midterm elections?  Or are they likely to get more distance out of trying to motivate their actual base, the traditional Democratic base, including union members, liberals, and that sort of thing?

STEIN:  Sure.  The two overlap in many respects.  But you‘re right that historically the youth vote doesn‘t really come out, not only in midterm elections, but presidential elections.  Obama‘s 2008 campaign was the exception to the rule.

That said, there‘s an important element to this election that very few people have actually talked about, and that is that this is the first midterm election in the age of social media.  And I say that, you know, Facebook, Twitter, all these tools are there for politicians to really take advantage of.  And Obama was able to do that in 2008.

The problem is that he hasn‘t engaged the same people in the way that would be productive for 2010.  And it remains to be seen whether groups like Organizing for America or the White House itself can actually flip the switch and just sort of reach out to these voters in the way they did in the presidential campaign and get them to the polls again.

MADDOW:  Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold facing stiff competition from a very, very conservative challenger, Republican Ron Johnson.  Senator Feingold, I thought it was interesting to see, was not expected to go to the event tonight.  There are at least reports that he wasn‘t going to go to this event, University of Wisconsin in Madison.  I think it‘s his alma mater.  He did end up coming to tonight‘s rally.

Any idea what changed there?

STEIN:  Well, from what I‘ve heard in talking to people close to the senator, it was never a matter of trying to duck the president.  Russ Feingold, of course, is one of the most dedicated progressives in Congress.  If anything, he‘s critical for Obama from the so-called “left of the spectrum.”  He had conflicts with the Senate that cleared up and he ended up at the speech.

You know, far more common is when conservative Democrats are distancing themselves from Obama—as you see with people like Representative Chet Edwards, who is floated to be Obama‘s vice president by Nancy Pelosi during the campaign, and now is up on air with an advertisement in which he touts his work against not only Obama but Nancy Pelosi herself.

So, when you see, when you‘re looking at these conservative districts, you see distance from Obama.  With people like Russ Feingold, I don‘t think there‘s any meaningful distance he‘s being trying to create there.

MADDOW:  A vigorous Democratic Party would, of course, punish that sort of thing instead of rewarding it by catering to it.  But—

STEIN:  Yes, of course.

MADDOW:  -- then we wouldn‘t have jobs.

STEIN:  Sure.

MADDOW:  Sam Stein, political reporter for “The Huffington Post”—

Sam, thanks a lot.  I really appreciate it.

STEIN:  Thanks, Rachel.  Take care.

MADDOW:  So, Senator James Warren DeMint of South Carolina is threatening all by himself without even, apparently, the approval of his fellow Republicans.  He is threatening all by himself to shut down the legislature of the United States—at least to shut down the United States Senate.

If I use that senator‘s middle name when I talk about this, does that bring home just how scary this prospect is?  Senator James Warren Hussein DeMint?  I am willing to do that if I need to.  I‘m willing to pull out all the stops to make the importance of this sink in.

That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  If a major political party were to take stances on issues like Social Security and abortion rights and other political party in that same race, might eventually shine as bright a light as possible on those extreme positions, right?  Until now, not so much with the Democrats and the light and the extreme on that—until now.  But we do have an update, real developments in the way Democrats are running against Republicans.  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  I‘ve always felt the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: “I‘m from the government and I‘m here to help.”

REP. TODD AKIN ®, MISSOURI:  I believe that Ronald Reagan had it right.  I‘ve always felt that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: “I‘m from the government and I‘m here to help.”

REP. RON LEWIS ®, KENTUCKY:  Ronald Reagan once said the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: “I‘m from the government, and I‘m here to help you.”

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW:  What if you are the government, though?  Does that mean you shouldn‘t try to help?  What are you trying to do with your job in government if trying to help is a very bad thing?  What else could you do in government?

You know, what happened today in Washington we should‘ve seen it coming back.  We should have seen it coming back in February.  In February, most of the country was mortified when Republican Senator Jim Bunning, a lone senator with the reputation for eccentricity—Jim Bunning personally stood up and used his power as a senator to stop unemployment benefits for the country.  Remember that?

Jim Bunning turned himself into a one-man roadblock as Democrats tried to pass an extension of unemployment benefits through the Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA:  Is there objection?

SEN. JIM BUNNING ®, KENTUCKY:  Senator from Kentucky objects.  I‘ll be here as long as you‘re here and as long as all those other senators are here.  And I‘m going to object every time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  And object he did over and over and over and over again and over and over and over and over again.  Senate rules allow that.  And sometimes when you‘ve got a guy like Jim Bunning, people who are unemployed through no fault of their own, get cut off from unemployment benefits because of that one somewhat eccentric senator has decided he‘s got a problem with it.

When that happened back in February, we should‘ve seen then what was coming today, because after Jim Bunning finally relented back in February, after this millionaire ex-baseball player finally gave up his crusade against the unemployed, we should have seen what happened today in Washington coming.  When the whole country was pretty much mortified by what Jim Bunning had done.

But one very important very small constituency felt otherwise.  They were not at all horrified by what Jim Bunning had done—quite the contrary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. JOHN CORNYN ®, TEXAS:  I admire the courage of the junior senator from Kentucky, Senator Bunning.  Somebody has to stand up finally and say enough is enough.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS ®, ALABAMA:  He stood like a solid rock, and he didn‘t give in.  And I respect him for the courage he showed.

SEN. JIM DEMINT ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  Senator Bunning from Kentucky has taken a courageous stand to hold the Democrats—in fact, all of us—accountable to the things that we say we believe.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW:  When Republicans praised Jim Bunning back then, we should have seen what happened today coming.  We should have seen it coming a month after the Jim Bunning fiasco too, when health reform faced its final passage in the Senate.  Health reform had already passed the House at this point.  It already passed the Senate once before.  The Senate was just taking up some final fixes to the bill.  Health reform was going to pass.

But Republicans—remember this?  Republicans decided their strategy against it at that point what they wanted the big show boat of resistance to be at the end would be keeping the Senate in session until 3:00 in the morning.  Remember this?  Well, they voted on amendments that were essentially laugh lines.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), MAJORITY WHIP:  One of the Republican amendments wants a public referendum in the District of Columbia on gay marriage.  Another Republican amendment wants us to go after the organization ACORN, which just announced its bankruptcy.  Another amendment says no prescription Viagra for rapists.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  These amendments had nothing at all to do what was going on policy-wise.  It was a just for show effort by Republicans to stop health reform for a while, for the sheer performative pleasure of being seen to be stopping it.  It wasn‘t a real effort to stop the bill.  It was an effort by Republicans to show what they were capable of doing, capable of doing by just blocking it for a while until late at night, just stopping any progress from happening for the sake of showing that they could.  Not making any progress on their own, just stopping things.

We should have seen then what was coming today.  Because today, a lone Republican senator, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, threatened essentially to shut down the federal government using the power that one senator has under Senate rules.

Quoting from “Roll Call” newspaper, “Senator DeMint warned his colleagues that he would place a hold on all legislation that has not been cleared by his office before the close of business Tuesday.”  Any piece of legislation not personally cleared by Jim DeMint will be blocked by Jim DeMint.  It is a threat that “Roll Call” newspaper described as, quote, “remarkable.”

Among the things that the Senate has yet to pass and which Senator DeMint could presumably block is a stopgap spending measure to keep government—to keep the government operating past September 30th.

So, Senator DeMint, in effect, is now threatening to shut down the entire government.  A government shutdown like the one we had back in the ‘90s under Newt Gingrich.  A few key differences here, though.  For one thing, right now, it‘s just a lone Republican senator without a leadership position who is threatening this.  In 1995, at least, Mr. Gingrich was the Republican speaker of the House.

The other difference is that the government shutdown in 1995 was at least theoretically about something.  It was about Republicans wanting President Clinton to cut Medicare and Medicaid and education.  This time around, Mr. DeMint is not even bothering to make a case that it is about anything.  It‘s not that Jim DeMint wants some legislative thing he‘s not getting.

Like—remember when that Alabama Republican senator earlier this year put a blanket hold on all of the president‘s judicial nominees because he wanted some pork for his district?  This is not that.  This is not “I‘m trying to get this one earmark, this one policy thing changed and if I don‘t get it I‘m going to shut down the government.”  This is just “I‘m going to shut down the government.”

This is just “I can and so I shall.”  This is shutting down the government for the pure ideological joy of shutting down the government.  It is the fetishization of government shutdown.  It is the full fruition of the idea that governing itself is bad.

If you campaign for generations on the idea that government itself is bad, that governing is bad, that policy is bad, that having a legislature that legislates is bad, that the nine scariest words in the English language are “I‘m from the government and I‘m here to help,” because government can never help, it only hurts and government must be stopped.  When you campaign on that for generations, then ultimately, your anti-government movement births politicians who stop government, who shut it down for no other reason than that they can because they think it‘s intrinsically good to do so.

And if you do not believe me, explain to me why this idea of a government shutdown keeps getting brought up by the right this year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

REP. LYNN WESTMORELAND ®, GEORGIA:  If the government shuts down, we want you with us.  We want you with us.

(APPLAUSE)

WESTMORELAND:  We got to have you.  We got to have you.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS:  So shutdown as possible.

NEWT GINGRICH ®, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER:  If the president wants to push it.

DICK MORRIS, POLITICAL STRATEGIST:  There‘s going to be a government shutdown.  Just like in ‘95 and ‘96, but we‘re going to win it this time.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW:  Government shut down, woo!

Understand these arguments are not about shutting down the government for any reason, for any one unbearable thing.  It‘s not a last resort way for Republicans to try to get this one thing that‘s very important to them that they can‘t get any other way.  It‘s not that.  They just want to shut down the government.  Any policy excuse to do that is as good as any other.

And Jim DeMint has now just decided that the whole policy hook, that‘s beside the point.  Shutdown itself is good because governing itself is bad, governing itself must be stopped.  Legislating itself is evil and must be stopped—which is a relatively cogent sentiment coming from someone with a black bandanna over their face running with a “Smash the State” banner at a WTO summit in the ‘90s or something.  But coming from a member of the United States Senate?

Mr. DeMint, when you spoke to your guidance counselor in high school, did that person really suggest governing as a good career path for you?  Because the country does need running, it does need governing.  And if you are against that on principle, then government service maybe shouldn‘t be the right fit for you.

The government shutdown back in 1995, the Gingrich shutdown, cost American taxpayers about $800 million.  These things are not free.

Mr. DeMint today threatened to do it again just for the sake of doing it again.  Jim DeMint wanting to do this is not surprising given how radical his own politics are.

So far, the supposed Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, has had no comment on Mr. DeMint‘s threat to shut down the government.

Watch to see how other Republicans and conservatives respond, though, to what Jim DeMint is doing.  In policy terms, it is a little spooky about the Senate, that one senator can shut down the entire government if he decides to.  In policy terms, it‘s a little spooky.

In political terms, it is even more spooky, if it turns out that Jim DeMint in this case is not standing alone.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  The Democratic politics fairy came to visit us today.  And the Democratic politics fairy brought us here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW two gifts.  First, a White House spokesman today brought up on a gaggle on Air Force One the issue of those darn liberal cable news hosts on the MSNBC.  But he brought us up in order to say something nice about us.  This is a nice change.

Spokesman Bill Burton described COUNTDOWN and this program as, quote, “helping to keep our government honest and pushing and prodding to make sure that folks are true to progressive values.”  Mr. Burton said the president, quote, “thinks that those folks provide an invaluable service.”

That was very nice.  Nice personally.  Of course, it‘s very flattering.  But it‘s also nice in the sense that in an election year, it is nice for liberals to hear someone from the Democratic-controlled White House talk about liberals without swearing at them.  None of that means, of course, that we will stop reporting the news in the way that sometimes makes the Democratically-controlled White House swear at us again, but still very nice.

That was the first gift brought to us today by the Democratic politics fairy.  The second gift today came from the Midwest, from a relatively conservative means Republican Congressional district, from the campaign of an NRA-endorsed centrist Democrat. 

The Democratic politics fairy brought us from that campaign the first grand slam, out-of-the-park, absolutely perfect Democratic campaign ad of the entire year, the ad that every Democrat in the country could copy and run on this year. 

And if they did that, it is the kind of ad, the kind of perfect message, perfectly done, that could keep the House and the Senate Democratic this year if Democrats decide they actually want to try for that.  It is the best Democratic ad of the year, according to me.  It is perfect.  It is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  As we‘ve been talking a lot about lately, at a sort of meta-strategic level, Democrats decided this year that they did not want to run in this year‘s elections with a national campaign strategy for whatever reason as Republicans turned right at Sarah Palin, right again at Jim DeMint, right again at the ghost of Jesse Helms and kept on scooting into right-ville.

Democrats decided there was not much to say about Democrats versus Republicans this year.  For whatever reason, that‘s what they decided.  But here‘s what it looks like when Democrats stray from that instruction. 

Here‘s what it looks like when Democrats decide there is something worth-saying about Democrats versus Republicans this year.  Here‘s what it looks like when Democrats do draw that contrast, when a Democratic candidate tries to hang the Republican agenda on her individual Republican opponent. 

Here‘s what it looks like when a Democratic candidate commits politics.  Watch this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DEBBIE HALVORSON (D-IL):  I‘m Debbie Halvorson and approve this message. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Politician Adam Kinzinger says social security benefits need to be capped. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s like you‘re stealing the money out of my pocket. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I need my social security. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘ve worked 52 years. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We‘ve paid all these years. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And Adam Kinzinger supports plans to raise the retirement age. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How old do you have to be to retire? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s not right.  Don‘t even think about it. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Adam -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Adam - 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Adam - 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You just don‘t get it. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Don‘t you dare.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Keep your hands off of my social security, Adam.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You‘re out of your tree. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re a young guy and you‘ve got a lot to learn, Adam. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That was an ad for Rep. Debbie Halvorson.  She is running for reelection in Illinois‘ 11th Congressional District, a bit south of Chicago.  Ms. Halvorson has only been in her seat for one term, unseating a Republican in 2008. 

It was the same year that the district went for Obama by about eight points, but it did go for Bush the previous two elections.  This is thought of as a swing district.  And who knows how this district is going to go on Election Day? 

But that ad - that‘s what it looks like when Democrats campaign in a hard-hitting, pull-no-punches, nail-them-to-the-wall way against that the declared Republican agenda that Republicans really do not want to run on this year, but that smart Democrats will make them run on. 

If Democrats were trying to win the elections this year in every Congressional district, in every Senate race, every gubernatorial race, every whatever election, some version of that ad could be run. 

The Republican Party is essentially, as a whole, embraced privatization of social security.  It‘s in the Paul Ryan road map for House legislation.  The would-be Republican speaker of the House, John Boehner, pointedly not ruling out social security privatization. 

A ton of the top-of-the-ticket Republicans are running on it overtly - our friend Rand Paul running for the Senate in Kentucky, Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, John Raese in Florida - sorry, West Virginia.  Confusing.  Hard to tell where he lives.  Rob Portman in Ohio, Roy Blunt in Missouri, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin - all running on privatizing social security. 

And this Debbie Halvorson ad is what it looks like when Democrats are trying to win against that.  And I will let you in a little secret.  You know what issue that Republicans - what issue Republicans are even more vulnerable on than they are on social security?  Abortion. 

You have to whisper the word because people get very nervous when you say the word “abortion” in an election year.  But in a year when there is a huge gender gap in who is expected to vote and vote Republican and Democrats can really only compete if Democratic women come out in November, you want to know where Republicans are most vulnerable on an “oh my god, look at the Republican agenda” ad?  It‘s on the issue of abortion. 

The roster of Republicans who have adopted this “once unelectable now standard” position of “no abortion ever not even in cases of rape or incest” continues to grow.  Nevada Republican candidate Sharron Angle, Delaware Republican candidate Christine O‘Donnell, Alaskan Republican candidate Joe Miller, Kentucky Republican candidate Rand Paul - Colorado Republican candidate Ken Buck goes there too. 

But even though Ken Buck is absolutely and proudly in favor of forcing women to bear their relatives‘ and their rapists‘ babies, Ken Buck is distancing himself from another measure on the same issue on his state‘s ballot this November.  Even Ken Buck thinks it‘s too extreme. 

It‘s a measure that would amend the Constitution of the State of Colorado to, I‘m not kidding, categorize fertilized human eggs as people.  It‘s called Amendment 62.  It would define a person with inalienable rights as every human being from the, quote, “beginning of the biological development of that human being.” 

They call it a Personhood Amendment.  It gives the zygote the same rights as you and me.  I don‘t know about driver‘s licenses, but it would not only make abortions illegal, it would also according to one of the amendment‘s authors, Leslie Hanks - according to Leslie Hanks, it would make certain forms of the pill and other contraceptive devices illegal. 

She says, quote, “Many of the oral contraceptives have an action that makes the womb inhospitable to a developing embryo and, hence, the new living, growing baby is prevented from residing where his or her creator intended until birth.”

So if you‘re on the pill, you‘re committing murder, according to these folks.  And if you miscarry, that‘s what?  Accidental manslaughter?  Negligent homicide? 

I don‘t care that these folks call themselves conservatives.  If this is limited government, I‘m the queen of England.  This is really, really, really, really, really, really big government. 

Republicans are running on a really extreme set of policy proposals.  And they were absolutely (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to talk about them during the primaries.  This is what they are running on. 

In the general election, though, they will have to answer to everybody in the electorate to conservatives, yes, but also to independents and liberals and everyone.  If Democrats force Republicans to explain themselves to everybody, not just to a Republican audience, we will have evidence that Democrats are actually trying to win this year. 

If Democrats don‘t do that, not only do we end up with people holding those really extreme positions in office, but we will sit wondering why Democrats didn‘t try as hard or as well as, say, Debbie Halvorson did this year. 

One of her fellow Illinois Democrats, pro-choice caucus member, Jan Schakowsky, joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  There is a long historical relationship between politicians and football.  Gerald Ford played for the Michigan Wolverines.  Richard Nixon was said to have suggested plays to the Washington Redskins. 

But the relationship between super kook and white supremacist Republican candidates and football, which is a relationship with just a few clicks on the Internet, that must be explained and be shown to be believed.  Explain and show, we shall.  That‘s coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Don‘t even think about it. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Adam -  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Adam - 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Adam - 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You just don‘t get it. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Don‘t you dare. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Keep your hands off of my social security, Adam. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You‘re out of your tree. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re a young guy and you‘ve got a lot to learn, Adam.

(END VIDEO CLIP)  

MADDOW:  “Keep your hands off my social security.”  “You‘re out of your tree.”  Part of a very good campaign ad that Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson is running as she defends her seat in Illinois‘ 11th District against Republican Adam Kinzinger.

Joining us now is another Illinois Democrat, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who is running for reelection in the Ninth District.  Congresswoman Schakowsky, thanks so much for joining us. 

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D-IL):  Thank you, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  First, let me ask you if you share my enthusiasm for this ad.  I feel like this is qualitatively better in tone and sharper in message than most of the other ads I‘ve seen this year. 

SCHAKOWSKY:  It‘s a fantastic ad.  But the good news is, Rachel, that you‘re wrong that it‘s not being done around the country.  We are doing campaigns and ads about social security privatization, “hands off our social security,” all over the country. 

That includes even more conservative Democrats who are running and, I believe, going to win on that issue.  So it is being used.  It‘s one of the major national messages along with our “make it in America, stop outsourcing our jobs” that are being shown all over the country. 

MADDOW:  At this point, is the reason it seems fresh to me because Democrats are being outspent by Republicans and, in particular, Republican outside groups by a margin of five or six to one? 

SCHAKOWSKY:  That could be.  But you know, we‘re heading into a time Democrats have been conserving money, because, clearly, we have less.  So I think that gap is going to diminish as we get closer to the campaign. 

This is the moment the Democrats have been saving their money for.  So you‘re going to see that we have a much greater presence as compared to the Republicans and these outsiders than we‘ve had before. 

MADDOW:  Let me ask you about the issue of reproductive rights. 

SCHAKOWSKY:  Sure. 

MADDOW:  Not only do most Democrats not want to run overtly on the issue, no matter what their position is on it.  Most even don‘t want to say the word “abortion” in an election year. 

Democrats haven‘t liked to campaign on this for a long time.  But in this election, with this crop of Republican candidates and their extreme positions on this issue, it seems to me like Democrats don‘t have a choice. 

SCHAKOWSKY:  And actually that‘s happening.  We see it in Colorado where Michael Bennett has run not one but two ads that deal with reproductive health.  We‘re seeing at governor‘s races in Illinois against Bill Brady, the Republican, and in Indiana - I mean, in Michigan. 

We‘re seeing it in a number of the races.  Let‘s see - and Harry Reid, of course, is using that in an ad.  So we‘re going to see that more and more, I believe, as we get closer.  This is a killer issue, not just the issue of abortion, but it‘s a window into the extremism, the intolerance of the - this brand of Republican. 

Sixty-three members - 63 House members that are running for reelection as Republicans belong to the RNC pro-life.  Under any circumstance, rape or incest, they do not support abortions.  You‘re going to see ads like - explaining that around the country that, you know, it‘s that kind of Republican that we don‘t want that is so extreme on so many issues, particularly abortion. 

This is going to appeal to suburban women.  Eighty-two percent of Americans in a poll said that in cases of rape and incest, they believe that abortion should be legal.  And so I definitely think that as we get closer to the election that you‘re going to see this raised particularly in urban areas. 

MADDOW:  Give me a window on the decisions that are made, the strategic decisions that are made about this idea of national versus local messaging, because obviously, any Democrat running against one of those Republicans who is that extreme on abortion issues has that out there as a very soft target provided for the pro-choice Democrat who is running. 

But there‘s also this broader issue, right, that any Democrat running anywhere in the country could use that issue by saying, “Listen.  Is this the Republican Party that you want to empower?  You want a Republican majority?  You‘re going to vote for X Republican candidate?  If so, you‘re electing Christine O‘Donnell.  You‘re electing these incredibly radical Republicans that you might have heard about nationwide.” 

That‘s a national campaign strategy.  And as far as I understand it, Democrats have decided not to do that kind of nationalizing thing. 

SCHAKOWSKY:  Well, certainly, on social security that - you‘re not right about that.  That you‘re going to see all over.  And again, I think you will see increasingly. 

You know what?  Emily‘s list found in a poll that 61 percent of rather uninterested women became very interested in voting against some candidate that would take away their right to make their own choice about reproductive health.  And so I do think that you‘re going to see it more. 

But you know, people are going to look at your own district, in some places and more rural areas and different kinds of communities around the country.  That‘s not a message that‘s going to sell. 

So candidates are picking and choosing.  But certainly, the outsourcing issue, the outsourcing our jobs, and social security plays more universally.  But you‘re going to see more and more of these attacks on the extremism and using the fact that even in cases of rape or incest, that there‘s complete anti-choice position.  You‘re going to see those ads. 

MADDOW:  Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois, trying the turn my frown upside down about Democratic (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on this.  And doing actually the most vigorous job that anybody has done at defending Democratic strategy so far for these elections this year.  Thanks for being on the show to do that.  It‘s nice to see you.

SCHAKOWSKY:  Thank you, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Thanks.   Coming up on “The Last Word” with Lawrence O‘Donnell, right here on MSNBC, Lawrence talks with Levi Johnston.  Yes, that Levi Johnston.  Yes, it‘s happening. 

Next on this show, white supremacist football.  White supremacist football and one crazy New York congressional election, and how.  That‘s coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Well, I‘m going to show you how to get all the way from crazy racist nonsense to crazy racist nonsense in a few simple steps.  Follow along closely now.  I think that this is only barely-legal on TV. 

OK.  First, on Thursday, we told you about New York Republican Jim Russell.  Mr. Russell is running against Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey in New York‘s 18th Congressional District, just north of New York City. 

Jim Russell is the Republican running against Nita Lowey regardless of whether or not the Republican Party likes that fact.  Because Mr. Russell has a record of racist ranting that makes Carl Paladino‘s most racist E-mails blush. 

Por ejemplo, quote, “Parents need to be reminded that they have a natural obligation as essential as providing food and shelter to instill in their children an acceptance of appropriate ethnic boundaries for socialization and for marriage.” 

That‘s from an essay Jim Russell wrote in 2001 for a white supremacist quarterly that was dredged up by “Politico.com” last week.  In the essay, Jim Russell argues that language and culture are designed to prevent mixing between the races and mixing between the finches. 

You may recall that we made Kent Jones read the finch part out loud because I found that I couldn‘t hold it together while trying to read what Mr. Russell had to say about those dastardly songbird race mixers. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (quoting Jim Russell):  It has been demonstrated that finches, raised by foster parents of a different species of finch, will later exhibit a lifelong sexual attraction toward the alien species. 

One wonders how a child‘s sexual imprinting mechanism is affected by forcible racial integration and near continual exposure to media stimuli promoting interracial contact. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  One wonders.  I‘ll tell you what one wonders - how did this guy become a major party nominee for Congress?  How did he get on the Republican ticket?  The answer is that Republican voters put him there, and now, they‘re stuck with him.  The Westchester County Republican Party did announce that they are withdrawing their support for Mr. Russell‘s candidacy.  But Mr. Russell says he is soldiering on. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM RUSSELL ®, NEW YORK CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE:  This really is unfortunate they‘re succumbing to a smear tactic by Nita Lowey to try to compensate for her poor performance and her dwindling support in the polls. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Also, she‘s the wrong color finch.  Poor guy, right, hasn‘t got a friend in the world.  Actually, does have a friend in the world.  Jim Russell not only has a friend.  He has a defender. 

And that brings us to the next stop on our journey from crazy racist nonsense to crazy racist nonsense.  A couple of days after we ran our segment on Jim Russell, the blog of the same white supremacist quarterly that brought you Jim Russell and the wrong-colored finches, that blog turns its attention to me.  Delighted. 

I found out about that because whenever David Duke or one of these people goes off on me online, my hate mail takes a distinct turn toward lots of all capital letters, misspelled accusations that I‘m a secret Jew.  L‘Chaim, illiterate racist guys. 

One of the places that we printed the “we love racist candidate guy, Jim Russell so Maddow must be a secret dirty Jew” screed was the Web site of a white supremacist radio show. 

And here‘s where idle RACHEL MADDOW SHOW hate mail Googling started to pay off.  The white supremacist radio show, the “we love Jim Russell Maddow‘s a dirty Jew” radio show, has paid sponsors listed on its Web site.  It is proudly sponsored, for example, by American Third Position, a political party for white Americans, also by the “Occidental Quarterly” which published the anti-race mixing finch thing in first place. 

It‘s also sponsored by this.  Check this out.  This is called “Caste Football.”  Remember that thing last year where somebody wanted to start and all-white sports league, got a little attention, then you really didn‘t hear about it again? 

That was not this.  That was an all-white basketball league.  This is whole other thing.  Caste football, my friends - caste football is research, racial analysis of NFL teams in which they count the white people. 

Look at the Web site.  They go team by team in the NFL, counting the white people with pictures of just the white players with their helmets off, if at all possible, so you can see as much of their excellent whiteness as possible. 

The Patriots like the Colts and Packers have a predominantly white starting offense, but few whites on defense.  But for the NFL, that still rates as relatively white-friendly.  Their take on the team from Washington, which the fellows at “Caste Football” call the “black skins” is, yes, along the same lines. 

They also lament the Jets as, and I quote, “heavy on the pepper, light on the salt,” if you know what I mean.  The Dolphins, according to “Caste Football,” gone are the great mostly-white Dolphins teams of the 1970s and early ‘80s.  And in their place, come near-coal black teams like this year‘s. 

They‘ve also got a baseball section where we learn that the Mets suck because all those foreign players are dragging them down.  Too bad they can‘t get someone like, I don‘t know, Albert Pujols. 

Oh, wait.  The white supremacist sports fans hub on the Web does also have a nice hockey section.  And then, we mostly hear about hockey because they seem vaguely more relaxed there. 

At least, I mean, ice is white even if it might be distantly Jewish.  So trying to bring to light the totally insane, finch-y racist ranting of Republican New York Congressional candidate Jim Russell, we drew fire from some of the fringiest fringe in American politics. 

But in the process of us drawing that fire, that allowed us to follow them home online where we learned about “caste football,” the white supremacist‘s guide to American professional sports, and honestly, one of the funniest things on the Internet that does not involve a hamster or a piano. 

So thank you, “Caste Football,” for the aerobic workout the entire staff got today laughing at you, racist freak shows.  And thank you, New York Congressional candidate and white supremacist Jim Russell. for bringing us together.  If I ever get a finch, I‘m naming him after you and getting him a finch of a different color to be his boyfriend. 

That does it for us tonight.  We will see you again tomorrow night.  Meanwhile, there‘s lots to add to what you see on the show.  We‘re very proud of our excellent blog at “MaddowBlog.MSNBC.com.”  Our E-mail address is rachel@msnbc.com, and our free podcast is at iTunes. 

Now, I‘m very proud to say after its spectacularly successful debut, it is time for “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell.  Good evening, Lawrence.  It‘s great to see you. 

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST, “THE LAST WORD”:  Rachel, I‘d be nowhere without any lead-in. 

MADDOW:  Good luck, Lawrence.  Break a leg. 

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks, Rachel.  In the words of Deepak Chopra, when you

struggle with your partner

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