NBC News chief political director and moderator of the political talk show “Meet the Press” Chuck Todd stopped by the Footwear Retailers and Distributors of America Innovation Summit today.
Todd, who has been a political reporter for more than two decades, covered challenges in Washington and laid out the landscape for Donald Trump’s popularity and why Congress just can’t seem to get anything done. Here are a few highlights from Todd’s speech.
The Biggest Challenges for the Next Administration
“The biggest challenge is this perception of broken Washington and broken politics. What part of the next presidency, whether it’s Trump or Hillary [Clinton], is going to depolarize us and be the magic elixir to get things done?
“We are a world superpower. But we just don’t seem to know how to use it anymore. You could argue that since the end of the Cold War, we’ve had three straight presidents who have struggled on how to use American power around the world.”
“If you could take an issue that sort of exemplifies the anxiety and disconnect between Washington and the public, it actually is the issue of trade agreements.
“The biggest disconnect in the economic recovery is that it has been an uneven recovery. There are places that are thriving, especially on the coasts. If you look in the middle of the country — the small cities, big towns, the ones that have one or two industries — they are the ones that just haven’t recovered. It’s where the economic anxiety is real. This is where, the thing you guys may care about the most, the trade agreements, get scapegoated and are blamed for why manufacturing moved.”
On Problems in Washington
“I had an old source tell me, ‘The political marketplace for ideas is dead.’ It’s absolutely right. You can’t propose a new idea … immediately when you have a high-profile proposal, interest groups come in and highlight everything that is wrong with it. And then all that gets focused on is what’s wrong with the idea. Then the ideas get shelved and are dead and gone and we sit in inertia. Pick the issue: dealing with taxes, the deficit or trade agreements, any idea that gets put out gets crushed and destroyed immediately so we don’t even have a way to properly debate.”
On Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump
“I’ve talked to Trump supporters who have said, ‘I know all the negatives about him, and I’m not sure he can be a good president, but I am sending a message. He is my middle finger to you, and he’s my middle finger to Washington. Yes, maybe I am electing an arsonist, but maybe burning down the place is the only way to go.’
“Trump hasn’t brought in new voters to the Republican party. Trump tapped into a group of GOP voters that haven’t been wooed in a long time. He moved them from being passive anti-Democratic party voters to almost semi-Republican because they liked the cultural issues. Now they’re frustrated economically, and here comes Trump. It’s really an economic backdrop more than anything else to understanding Trump’s appeal. The biggest mistake Washington made with Trump was trying to spend so much time understanding him. Go and understand the voters.”
On Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton
“Even six months ago, this election was a referendum on Hillary Clinton. If you’re her, on the one hand you’re thinking, ‘Wow, this isn’t going to be a referendum on me,’ and are probably relieved. On the other hand, she’s no longer the change candidate. … I think for a long time she thought her gender would be enough and the idea of electing a first woman president would be the change, but it hasn’t had the traction in the primaries.”