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Shields and Brooks on Shifting Demographics, Future ‘Grand Bargain’

Judy Woodruff talks to NewsHour political analysts Mark Shields and David Brooks for post-Election Day analysis about how changing demographics affected the election, plus how some politicians’ ideological purity has obstructed necessary negotiations to fix the debt crisis, as well as the potential for a future ‘grand bargain.’

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    And finally here with us, where they have been during the campaign, the conventions and last night, election night, are syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Gentlemen, I know you have had a good night's sleep. I saw you just a few hours ago.

    David, you're not in Washington right now.

    Mark, you are.

    But welcome back.

    Let's start out — let me just start out by quickly asking you, David, what more is there to be said about last night and the way everything unfolded?


    Don't mess with Big Bird. It was the revenge of PBS.

    No, I'm not sure that was a voting issue.

    You know, the fundamental issue is that this is a country that is an incredibly diverse country that has changed demographically, a lot more Latinos, a lot more Asian -Americans, a lot more single women, a lot more single men, and a lot more college-educated men. And, culturally, the Republican Party didn't move.

    And so they have got to do what every single company in the country basically, every single university has done, adapt to the new reality. And so they got have to put up a story that will appeal to these groups, these new and rising groups.

    And the problem they're going to have is they're going to want to say to themselves — and already a lot of Republicans are saying to themselves — well, we have just have to fix immigration reform, our policy on immigration reform. That's necessary, but not sufficient.

    They have to come up with a story about how you make it in America. If you look at the Pew surveys of the Latino community, of the Indian-American community, Asian-Americans, ferocious commitment to work, at the same time, a real belief that government helps them be industrious.

    And so the Republicans have been to be focused on work and say, we will accept those parts of government that will help you rise and succeed.


    Mark, what did you take away from last night and what the voters were saying and who they were?


    I took away Virginia, where if you just looked at the black vote and the white vote, it was the absolute split between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

    But, because of Latinos, because of Asian, and because of other nationalities, Barack Obama carried the state. And that — David's point I think is a point well taken.

    It's a changing American electorate. It fell to 72 percent white, the electorate, which is still whiter than is the nation as a whole because of participation.

    But I think this — the change — this was the last election that the Republicans had a chance. I mean, we can argue whether it was voter repression, but it certainly was made more difficult to vote if you weren't a white Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, native-born. And I think this was the last gasp of that constituency.

    And at the same time, Judy, one other quick thing, and that is, there's a terrible temptation on the part of the press after an election. If you win, you're a genius with an I.Q. north of 300. If you lose, you're somehow a dullard who probably isn't able to tie your own shoes.

    The Romney campaign did several things right. The Obama campaign did several things wrong.

    The Obama campaign did more things right, and they won, and they had, in the final analysis, a better candidate than did the Romney campaign.


    Keep it in perspective.

    So, David, yes, the electorate is changing, but this president comes back to a divided Congress, a Republican House of Representatives, a Democratic-majority Senate, a few changes here and there. What is really different now?


    Yes, in some ways, astonishingly little.

    We have spent $2 billion and we basically switched maybe four seats, maybe a few more, a couple in the House, a couple in the Senate. So we have got basically the same cast of characters. It was throw the bums back in.

    And so we are still fundamentally a very evenly divided, very polarized country.

    And so some of the issues that we have just been talking about, like immigration reform, I think on the elite level, there's a lot of just bipartisan desire to do something.

    But there is a lot of hostility to the idea of giving people a path to citizenship. There's a lot of belief and a legitimate belief that immigration does lower wages for working-class native-born Americans.

    So, there is going to be a lot more hostility because of what's out there in the country.

    And then, on the fiscal cliff, I believe John Boehner is absolutely sincere that he would like to do something with Obama. And Obama said he wants to have a plan with 2.5 — $2.50 of spending cuts for every $1 of tax increases. That's the basis of a plan. Can they sell it to their bases? Much harder to know.


    But, Mark, the president did win reelection. He has won, barely, but he did win a majority.


    He sure did.


    He's been sent back to office — I mean, into office for a second term. Doesn't that count for something?


    It counts. It does count for something, Judy. And the president is the only nationally elected officeholder.

    Each of the people who is elected and will be taking the oath of office on the first day of the new session is himself and herself elected as well. I just hope that the Republicans would learn, and the Democrats as well, from the great lesson of Ronald Reagan.

    To be a rhetorical grave-robber and take one of the great conservative icon's words, he said, somebody who is with us 80 percent of the time is our 80 percent — he is our ally and friend, or she is our ally and a friend, now that there are so many women in the Senate, and not our opponent, not a traitor.

    And I think this has punished the Republicans in their nominating process. I think, sometimes, it punishes the Democrats, this idea of ideological purity.

    And I hope that that can be somehow submerged as we try and fashion and craft compromises that are difficult of the thorniest of problems for the — Congress has confronted in recent history.


    And, David, do you think that's possible? Do you think that is going to happen?


    I think it's possible.

    It's a huge advantage that Boehner and Obama have already been through this once. They have got the policy documents. They are sitting there in the White House. They're sitting there on Capitol Hill. They have got all the statements, all the e-mails. So, they have been through this.

    They have made some big mistakes in the negotiating process. But, so, the fact that they have already done this and failed is a huge advantage as they go forward.

    The stumbling block last time — there were a couple — one was the gang of six. The senators came in out of left field and sort of messed everything up.

    But the big stumbling block is, neither was sure they could sell it to their own bases.

    And, already, on the liberal side, there are a lot of people mobilizing against the grand bargain. And on the Republican side, whether a lot of those House Republicans will go for it, I think that's still unknown.

    But I do think there is a sincere desire. And there's a path forward through tax reform to get some revenue. There's a path forward, and we can be more optimistic about it now than we could — we have been able to for the last two years. That's for sure.


    How do you see it?


    This is the one time, Judy, in 2012 — Gordon Lichtman, a lawyer friend of mine from New York, pointed out to me — I hadn't thought of it — that Barack Obama has never run as an incumbent.

    Every time else, he has been an insurgent, whether it was challenging Bobby Rush, whether it was running for the Senate, running for the presidency, taking on the Clinton legend and all that. He ran as an incumbent in 2012. It was a different kind of campaign. It was his record that was being scrutinized, examined.

    Now he never faces the electorate again. That's an advantage. He can be the lame duck or he can be playing to history. And I think his motives will be seen as less political and more open and more in the public interest. And I think that gives him an advantage in presenting his case now. He's not worried about the next election.

    And nobody could accuse him in 2012 of having been a party stalwart. He ran as an independent contractor. He won. And he won an impressive majority victory.


    And you're saying maybe that will make a difference. Well, we will talk to…


    I hope.


    I heard you say that.

    We will talk to the two of you on Friday. Welcome back. Get some rest between now and then.



    Thank you.


    Mark Shields and David Brooks, thank you.


    You can find two other NewsHour regulars who will weigh in on last night's results online. Presidential historians Michael Beschloss and Richard Norton Smith offer their perspectives on our website.

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