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Shields and Brooks on election results, Trump’s resistance

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including election results, congressional power balances, President Trump’s refusal to concede and how President-elect Biden’s administration is taking shape.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Hello to both of you on this Friday night. We haven't seen you since the election was declared, Joe Biden was declared the winner, Mark.

    So, what do you make — we have to ask you, what do you make of the result and how some of these final states went, Arizona, Georgia and the others?

  • Mark Shields:

    Well, I think I predicted every one of them, Judy.

    No, I…


  • Mark Shields:

    I guess I'm not surprised. Surprised at the margin, and the margin, that it was so close.

    And I think that, in retrospect, reflection, the campaign of Donald Trump deserves enormous credit for identifying and motivating and turning out voters who had — were not regular voters and gave Trump the number of votes he had, and probably made the difference almost surely in the Republicans picking up House seats and in retaining the Senate.

    But the victory, it was rather remarkable to be here in Washington at the time. It had a V.J. Day quality to it, I mean, not to that dimension, victory over Japan in World War II, but sort of the public exhilaration, people smiling, just a goodwill, which had to be rather unsettling for the president as he came back from a golf club, because he had to go right by it in Lafayette Park…

  • Judy Woodruff:


  • Mark Shields:

    … and to see this sort of sense of gaiety and New Year's Eve festivity that was felt.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    David, what did you make of the result, of the call, the final call, how it ended?

  • David Brooks:

    Well, there was people playing "Glory Days," a Springsteen song, in my neighborhood, too. And so, at least in urban America, there's a lot of joy.

    Five points is a pretty good victory, bigger than I thought it would be on election night or thereabouts. And so it's a good Biden win.

    I happen to think Joe Biden was the only Democratic nominee who could have won this election. There was a lot more pro-Trump support than we thought. There was not a great pro-Democratic Party generic support as much as we thought.

    I think the Democrats need to get over this idea that they are the emerging majority party. This idea has been around because of demographic things or other things. And there's been an assumption that demography is on our side, and I think it's just time to accept that's just not going to happen.

    We're going to be a pretty 50/50 country. I will believe a change when I see it. And it's becoming more polarized on education, with Democrats becoming the party more and more of the college-educated, the Republicans becoming more and more the college — the high school-educated.

    And, geography, the urban/rural divide is wider than ever. And so we are just locked into some sort of either gridlock or compromise. We will see. But it's 50/50 almost.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Mark, what about that? I mean, you mentioned that the Democrats didn't do as well as they thought they would in the Senate or in the House. They lost seats in the House.

  • Mark Shields:

    No. No, that's right, Judy.

    David makes a good point. This has been a year of expectations. If you recall — and raised expectations. Donald Trump raised the expectations going into the first debate that Vice President Biden was non compos, that he couldn't finish a sentence, that he would fall asleep on the stage, none of which, of course, happened.

    Senator — Vice President Biden handled himself well, prevailed. And that may have been the defining event of the fall campaign.

    Democrats had expectations, great expectations, about winning the Senate, about enlarging their House majority, all of which came up quite short.

    And it — I think the argument that one-party control is strong, that there was a resistance to that, the Republicans made the case. And I think just language like defund the police really came back to haunt Democrats and hurt them in suburban and marginal districts.

    And I think you will see a fractiousness and a division. It's already there within the Democratic House Caucus, within the Democratic Party at large over this, and that there isn't a natural Democratic majority that is inevitable in the country.

    And I think that was a lesson to be learned on November 3.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, David, is there a way to put a finer point on it? The country is divided, as you're both saying. There's not a natural Democratic majority.

    So, what is — what do we have?

  • David Brooks:

    Well, we probably have gridlock, but I hope not.

    I spent a bunch of this week calling around the Senate, speaking to senators like Mitt Romney, and ask him, is there any way to get 60 votes around some issues, just so we can pass some things and help some people?

    And Romney came up with a whole bunch of topics. There were the dreamers, the immigration, some budget stuff, some immigrant — health care stuff, prescription drugs. He said, sure.

    And then I talked to other aides, and they came up with national service, infrastructure. And so there's at least a eagerness on the part of a lot of senators to actually vote for legislation, something they have not been allowed to do under Mitch McConnell, and pass things.

    Will McConnell allow votes to come to the floor? Will he cooperate and play ball? Well, nobody would bet on that. But I'm struck by a desire to get out of the stuckness that has marked legislative bodies for the past couple years.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Interesting about what Romney.

    But speaking of Mitch McConnell, Mark, he is staying with President Trump's insistence that he's not only within his rights to challenge the election, he's not conceding, that he needs to pursue every legal avenue.

    In fact, Republicans are virtually in lockstep. Only a few of them don't support the president.

    What lasting impacts of that? Is it just — are we going to be over it soon? What do you see?

  • Mark Shields:

    Judy, that Donald Trump is going out as a sore loser.

    I think he's making a serious mistake. And his future obviously is not bright. I mean, he could talk about '24, but there's an awful lot of investigations and judicial action between now and 2024.

    But Mitch McConnell is kind of fascinating. If you go back to December of 2008, which I did — and you're free to look at it — the Senate had a send-off for Joe Biden, who had just been elected vice president. And senators made their statements.

    Mitch McConnell wrote his own statement. It was quite moving and quite personal about Joe Biden, and that Joe Biden was the rare creature who could reach across the aisle to Jesse Helms or to Strom Thurmond or to me, and he became my friend.

    I think this will be tested. I really do. I think he's awfully — he's key. He's important in this.

    And one thing that was lost in the campaign is that Joe Biden is one of the great retail politicians of his generation. He is wonderful with people, people of all sorts. He was deprived of that in the campaign. We never saw it. We never saw him with people in the campaign. They ran a good campaign, a disciplined campaign.

    But I think, when you get Joe Biden in the White House, as president, and bringing those personal skills together, I think the chances are improved. And I'm more optimistic, I guess, maybe than David is.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, David, I want to ask you about the Biden prospects.

    But just quickly on the president's refusal to concede, is this something that leaves a lasting scar, or does it go away quickly? What do you see?

  • David Brooks:

    Well, I think Trump has left a lasting scar. The whole entity, the whole entirety of the existential presence of Trump has left a lasting scar on our norms, on the way we feel with each other, about the way the world looks at us.

    Dictators around the world are happy to see an American president denying election results. That gives them encouragement and gives them a set of norms they can hew to.

    I expect him to go. You can feel the air coming out of the balloon, the stages of grief. What is it, denial, then rage, and then acceptance, though, with Trump, there's more rage and more denial. But you feel the Republicans walking away, rightly or wrongly, just not wanting to get in front of the train and push him out.

    That's the wrong metaphor.


  • David Brooks:

    But you feel him losing momentum. And I do think he will eventually whimper out, probably without ever admitting defeat, and probably without attending Joe Biden's inauguration.

    But that is the way the man is.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A lot of people wondering like that.


  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, David…

  • Mark Shields:


  • Judy Woodruff:

    I just wanted to ask David to — on Biden's prospects, to respond to Mark, what you said a moment ago.

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, well, I'm maintaining my posture of unrealistic optimism.

    And so I do think there's some chance of actually working together. You look at the people Joe Biden is hiring. They're experienced, Ron Klain, his chief of staff, experience, experienced at pandemic fighting, experienced at Washington.

    You look at the people running the Task Force, the COVID Task Force, Vivek Murthy, the former surgeon general. Atul Gawande is on that task force. We're just getting an A-team.

    With Trump, we never got the Republican A-team. With Biden, it looks like we're going to get the Democratic A-team. So, that's got to make you feel good.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And I was struck, Dr. Murthy, when we talked to him a few minutes ago, used the term humility several times.

    Mark, I interrupted you. Go ahead.

  • Mark Shields:

    No, I was just following up on the point of President Trump.

    Here in Washington, Judy, power is the perception of power. If I think you have got power, and David thinks you have got power, and people think — you have power. And that's the reality now. You can feel the power has moved from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.

    And the world has called. Erdogan has called. The only unheard — Kim Jong-un is on the line. No. But he is — he will be probably writing a letter to Joe Biden.

    But he and Putin are kind of the holdouts, the bitter-enders. But that's the reality, that the power has left Donald Trump. And so the question, when does that reality set in with him?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, David, to put a punctuation mark, you see it coming?

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, I don't think we're going to — I don't know if it'll be before Inauguration Day, but Republicans are beginning to urge Trump to give Biden the press — the intelligence briefings.

    And so, as they begin to do that, that's just part of a process of withdrawal.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we will see about the inauguration.

    David Brooks, Mark Shields, on this Friday night, we thank you both so much.

  • Mark Shields:

    Thank you.

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