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Following the 2022 midterm elections, Harvard Kennedy School political experts discussed what the results mean for polarization, voter turnout, and the future of the GOP at an Institute of Politics forum Wednesday night.
Moderated by Daniel J. Balz, a Washington Post chief correspondent and senior fellow at the IOP, the forum featured HKS affiliates Archon Fung, Cornell William Brooks, and Margaret E. Talev.
Brooks said high voter turnout in the midterm elections was “validation and affirmation of democracy.”
“In the face of widespread stoked cynicism and skepticism, people still showed up,” Brooks said.
Still, Fung said that while this year’s voter turnout was high for a midterm election, it was “pathetically low by international standards and the standards of good democracies.”
Talev, a CNN political analyst, said the country cannot “celebrate the resilience of democracy” with the continuing success of officials who question the legitimacy of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results.
“There are more elected representatives of Congress and state-level officials now elected who baselessly question the legitimate outcome of an election than ever before, and that’s a real problem,” she said.
Wednesday’s panel also touched on the recent attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Brooks said politicians need to make clear that they stand against political violence.
“The fact that someone could attack the husband of the Speaker in their home and not have every member of Congress speak with a clear voice says two things — both they underestimated the threat, and they don’t appreciate the proximity of the threat,” Brooks said.
“In a democracy, political violence makes everyone vulnerable,” he added.
Talev discussed the implications of Tuesday’s midterm results for major players in the GOP.
“It was a bad night for Trump, a good night for DeSantis,” Talev said.
DeSantis won the Florida gubernatorial race by 19 points on Tuesday, garnering 58 percent of the Hispanic vote, and carrying Miami-Dade county, a traditionally Democratic stronghold. According to Talev, Florida’s race may indicate a shift in momentum within the Republican Party.
“I think we woke up this morning trying to understand how many national profile Republicans were going to take that moment as a window of opportunity and say, ‘It’s time for the country to move on,’ or ‘It’s time for us to get past Trump,’” Talev said.
She said a number of Trump-backed candidates lost at the polls in high-profile races, leaving many Republicans frustrated.
Talev also said it was “a bad night for Kevin McCarthy,” noting that even if he becomes House Speaker, he will be “completely hobbled” by the concessions he will have to make with a divided caucus.
If Republicans win control of the House, McCarthy would be leading it with a much smaller majority than expected. Talev said this will give President Biden “maneuvering room,” allowing him to prepare an agenda to appeal to centrists and “get ready for a reelection campaign.”
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