HAYES: Joining me now, MSNBC national correspondent Joy Reid, Charlie Peirce, writer at large for “Esquire” Magazine, and Republican media consultant Rick Wilson.
Well, well, well, Joy, let me start with you. OK, what did we see today? What was that?
JOY REID, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I have to tell you, I think we`re going to look back at today as sort of the quintessentially perfect day in the Republican primary — in the sense that we found out what I`ve always called this legged stool of conservatism, where you got the elites, you got the evangelicals, and you got the sort of meat and potato blue collar wing of the party, we discovered there`s actually four wings of this party. You essentially have the intellectual movement conservative wing, which is what
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) 97%represents. I`ve been in a worm hole of been reading “Red State” and reading a lot of conservative sort of publications that are about movement conservatism and intellectual conservatism. That`s who Ted Cruz is, right?
HAYES: They love Cruz.
REID: They love Ted Cruz. He`s hanging with “Duck Dynasty”, but that`s not who he is. He`s the Harvard guy. He`s the Ivy League.
HAYES: He`s both, that`s why he`s great.
REID: Right. Then you`ve got the sort of real meat and potatoes base which isn`t necessarily ideologically conservative. They want more stuff. They want Medicare. They want their ethanol subsidies. They want their life to be made comfortable by the government if that`s what happens.
They just want that feeling of power that America use today have when their parents were young, right? So, he represents that fourth wing of the party, i.e., people think of these two as the same way. I actually don`t think they are.
We also saw briefly there`s a celebrity conservatism element, too. It`s perfect you have John Wayne, Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, reality show conservatism. That is what was seen today.
HAYES: Well, Rick, I mean, obviously, the subtext of what Joy said I think is exactly at the heart of the issue, because what`s setting up, what`s happening is Trump and Cruz go after each other, is Cruz is pointing to all the apostasies of Donald Trump, right? And the fact he used to support single-payer and he gave money to the Clintons.
You know, X, Y, Z. This question about what is conservatism? Really, what does it come down to? Sarah Palin comes into vouch and say, all these elitists are telling you what this is. We know what it is. It`s making America great again.
RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN MEDIA CONSULTANT: Look, there`s a thing I`ve described as the troll party which Trump is sort of energized and activated over the last six months. And what`s happened with the troll party element of this, is they are very driven by the celebrity of Trump and Sarah Palin is a reality TV star, celebrity, as well. She transformed from a political figure to a reality TV show figure.
This is sort of the singularity of the entertainment wing of the Republican Party where there`s not a firm ideological underpinning about it anymore. Sarah Palin was always a populist who was seated in limited government conservatism but, you know, she`s managed to flip that on its head in one day and essentially walk away from all the limited government part of her background and just embrace the Trump populism and the yell louder, yell longer, be madder, be more furious division of the party.
Look, I think Joy`s right. This was one of those like crystal moments of the whole campaign where you had all these elements coming together at one time. I mean, every TV camera in country was on that event and there`s a reason for that. It`s great show. It`s a great entertaining spectacle.
And there`s nothing else like it going on in the field. I think Ted Cruz`s attacks on Trump would have had more credibility and a little more heft and a little more weight if he hadn`t spent the last six months serving as the pilot fish to Donald Trump`s shark and following him around and wagging his tail every time Trump said something absurd, Ted Cruz was sitting in the background with his thumbs up.
So, it would have had more credibility and more oomph this recitation of Trump`s complete lack of conservative credentials of which he has none, it would have been a much more effective argument if he hadn`t been Trump`s fan boy until yesterday.
HAYES: Well, it`s very funny to watch both of them go after each other. They spend six months saying nothing but nice things about each other. Now, they`ve discovered how secretly liberal the other one is.
I want — Charlie, I think we`re getting down to here it, all politics, I want to be clear on this, because I don`t want to say this is just about conservatism. I mean, I think it is. All politics are emotional. All politics are about who you identify with.
We use this term identity politics which is always used to talk about people usually people of color. But all politics are identity politics which is what we`re seeing in this campaign. And to me the moment that sums up this campaign so far was this moment of Trump chanting “USA, USA” into a microphone. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: USA, USA, USA, USA, USA, USA. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Trump — Charlie, that is the Trump campaign. That`s it. That`s the Trump campaign in ten seconds. That`s what this campaign has been.
CHARLIE PIERCE, WRITER AT LARGE, ESQUIRE MAGAZINE: I`m glad he did that because if he farmed out to governor Palin, I`m not sure she would have been able to spell it.
Look, I refuse to look upon then whole event today as anything besides spectacle. If it is a pivotal moment in American politics, then this country is screwed from hell to breakfast. OK, you`ve got — I`m sorry.
You have a not particularly bright person auditioning as court jester to a clown basically. That`s the sum total of what happened today. I mean, with all due respect to Rick, the Republican Party is forcing — has been forcing its presidential candidates to look ridiculous for two cycles now.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)79%is talking about having bought a gun for Christmas because he wanted to defend his family against ISIS as the pickup trucks come up Biscayne Boulevard. Chris Christie is out there today talking about how he`s going to undo Michelle Obama`s healthy food and let kids in middle school eat whatever they want for lunch. Jeb Bush is just ridiculous on the face of it.
This is just the quiescence (ph) of it. I don`t think you have to be born a cynic, although I was, to wonder exactly how much this endorsement cost.
REID: But at the end of the day, though, Chris, you know, it`s interesting because for decades, you`ve had Rush Limbaugh and the sort of conservative entertainment complex holding together these various wings of the party as if there was a core belief in a set of specific conservative values among the base. When it turns out what the base wants is a feeling that can be delivered by Rush but some policies that are apostasy to movement conservatives.
HAYES: So, Rick, this is, Mike (INAUDIBLE) wrote this piece today in “The Week” where he looked at this Samuel Francis, who was a white nationalist, white supremacist, who sort of started out main street conservative who was an advisor to Patrick Buchanan, basically said your best path is get rid of all the conservatism stuff, all the limited government deficits, markets, all that stuff, and just go whole hog at essentially ethno-nationalism and Michael writing about the Trump campaign says what so frightens the conservative movement about Trump`s success is he reveals just how thin their support for their ideas really is. His campaign is a rebuke to their institution.
It says the Republican Party doesn`t need all these think tanks or supposed policy expertise. It says look at these people calling themselves libertarians and conservatives, the one in tassel loafers and bow ties. Have they made you more free? Have their endless policy papers and studies and books conserved anything for you? These people are worthless. They are defunct. You don`t need them and you`re better off without them.
What do you think of that, Rick?
WILSON: Well, look, first off, I think that`s absurd. I think there is definitely still a very significant portion of the party that is a limited government conservatism based faction of the overall coalition.
Now, the screamers and the crazy people on the alt right as they call it, you know, who love Donald Trump, who have plenty of Hitler iconography in their Twitter icons.
HAYES: They sure do. I can back that up.
WILSON: Who think Donald Trump is the greatest thing, oh, it`s something. But the fact of the matter is, most of them are childless single men who masturbate to anime. They`re not real and political players. These are not people who matter in the overall course of humanity.
What`s really driving the Republican Party, though, is still a limited government conservatism that is still a structure built around a government that`s less invasive, less intrusive, less taxes, less government, more freedom.
We don`t always get there by a straight line path. We don`t always get there in a direct way. But that is still what drives this party. And there`s also a major part of the party that is still trying to sort itself out on what the balancing test is between the limited government side, the national defense side, the social conservatism side. And I don`t think this other stuff Trump is toying with is really a part of the mainstream conservative movement by any stretch of the imagination.
HAYES: I know, you know, Rick, I think the question to me is this is all going to be tested, right? I think — which is to say I agree with you. There are large parts of people who are avowed Republicans and conservatives who really genuinely care about limited government. But what we`re seeing this sort of electoral test. And that`s what makes today so fascinating, this fight so fascinating, what happens — we are dealing with this sort of seismic question about what exactly we`re looking at as a 21st century Republican Party.
Joy Reid, Charlie Pierce, and Rick Wilson, thank you all.
REID: Thank you.
WILSON: Thanks, Chris.