At the event, which was moderated by Government Professor Harvey C. Mansfield Jr. ’53 and co-sponsored by the Center for American Political Studies and the Program on Constitutional Government, Kristol attributed this year’s Democratic success to a favorable political atmosphere for the left, not a permanent Republican decline.
He began by saying that because of the recent Democratic victory, he imagined that he would receive “special sympathy, empathy, and condolence” on the notoriously liberal Harvard campus, drawing laughter from the audience.
He said that for the Republican Party, the “most worrisome are young voters,” and that because of this demographic trend, his party is “in extremely bad shape.”
Kristol compared this year’s situation to 1992, when Clinton beat George H.W. Bush, and joked that “maybe no more Bush family is good for the Republican Party.”
“Obama might have more of a chance than any Democrat...since [Franklin D. Roosevelt, Class of 1904] to really be a major transformative Democratic president,” he said.
Galston, also a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, said that structural effects such as the condition of the economy and the unpopularity of the Iraq war prefigured the election results.
He also offered a critique of the McCain campaign.
“I will make my colleague very unhappy when I say this,” Galston added. “I do not think the choice of Governor Palin was well-considered.”
On Monday, Kristol said on Fox News that Palin “reminds me a lot of FDR.”
Galston, like Kristol, emphasized that in recent years, young adults have been increasingly voting for Democratic candidates, “which has been a bad sign for the other party.”
Galston also said he worries that the Obama campaign’s diverse coalition might pose a challenge to his nascent administration.
“Even in the eyes of his own coalition some people are afraid that he wouldn’t go far enough while others think he would go too far,” said Galston.
He concluded that the president-elect will have to manage potentially inflated expectations as well as the shift from the “poetry of campaign” to the “prose of governance.”
More than 150 students, faculty members, and Cambridge residents attended the panel.
“The talk was really interesting,” said Andrew P. Gnau, a student at the Harvard Kennedy School. “Kristol is a very well-thought man, though I often don’t agree with him.”