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Politics & Government

Transition Process Begins: Trump To Meet With Obama At The White House

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

President-elect Donald Trump goes to the White House today to meet with President Obama. It's the first step in a transition process that goes from now through January, when he is inaugurated. Joining us now to talk about what's happening in the political parties after this seismic election is NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

Good morning.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Now, we saw a lot of resistance to embracing Trump among establishment Republicans during his campaign. But yesterday morning, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was out early talking about one party. Is that a portent of what's to come?

LIASSON: Yes, I think Republicans are unifying behind Donald Trump. There were predictions, of course, of a Republican civil war if Trump had lost. But now that he won, I think any remaining resistance to him in the Republican Party seems to have disappeared. Only conservative intellectuals are left in the opposition. When you listened to Speaker Ryan yesterday, you heard him full of awe and admiration for the decisive win Trump had and the fact that he had coattails. He helped Republicans keep their losses in the House to single digits - only two losses in the Senate.

So I think, yes, it is a Trump party now. He's remade the Republican Party in a populist, more isolationist, nativist direction. And we'll see how that plays out since his views on so many things, like trade and immigration and foreign policy and small government, are so different from those that the congressional Republican leadership used to have.

MONTAGNE: Well, Trump did say - had a list of what he would do on day one. But what is likely to be his first legislative action?

LIASSON: Well, I think he'll be looking for the low-hanging fruit. First, on his own, he can reverse all those executive actions President Obama made on the environment or on immigration. Then, in terms of legislation, I think repealing Obamacare is probably the easiest and first order of business now that Republicans have total control of Congress and the White House. I think he'll want to appoint a ninth Supreme Court justice. Other things - he'll want to cut taxes and regulations. He's promised to enact term limits. That might be tough because it's opposed by Mitch McConnell. Then he's talked about infrastructure investment, which is something that actually could get bipartisan support.

MONTAGNE: And what are you - speaking of bipartisan, what are you hearing from Democrats about how they're dealing with these results?

LIASSON: Democrats are still absorbing the magnitude and the shock, really, of now being completely shut out of power. They're trying to figure out what happened. There's lots of soul searching and some scapegoating. Democrats are angry at James Comey and Anthony Weiner. And also, they're talking about Hillary Clinton herself and what a weak candidate she was. She was a status quo candidate who ran a status quo campaign in a change year. And I've heard Democrats wonder if Joe Biden or any male candidate could have done better with the white working-class areas of the country where Donald Trump really built his victory.

Hillary Clinton outperformed President Obama in cities and suburbs, but she really didn't get out the Obama coalition. And she underperformed him with white working-class voters. And the interesting thing now is we've had three elections where, without Obama on the ballot, the Obama coalition has not turned out in full force - in the midterm elections of 2010 and 2014 and now this election.

The other thing Democrats are dealing with is they need a leader at a time when their party's bench is very thin. And for a party that has strong support among young people, they have a very old set of leaders.

They're also looking at that map. Donald Trump seems to have blown it up and remade it. Maybe the industrial Midwest, the Rust Belt, the kind of older, whiter, less-college-educated areas are now Republican states. Democrats are looking to the more diverse parts of the country in the upper South and the West.

There's a lot of soul searching. There also is probably going to be more tension in the party between the centrist-wing, kind of Chuck Schumer Democrats and the left-wing Elizabeth Warren Democrats.

MONTAGNE: But it also has to be said that Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote. Now, of course, Donald Trump won the electoral vote, so he will be the president. But does he have a mandate?

LIASSON: Well, that's a really good question. She won the popular vote. A mandate is always in the eye of the beholder, and it's often overestimated by the winner. He didn't really run on specific policy issues. He just promised to blow up the system and drain the swamp. And also, the majority of the country has different views than Donald Trump and the Republicans on immigration, global warming and even health care. So I think a mandate might be pretty elusive.

MONTAGNE: Mara, thanks very much.

LIASSON: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: That's NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.