On November 12, the Fullerton Public Library hosted a discussion where a panel of political science professors from Cal State Fullerton weighed in on the results of the midterm election. The panel included Dr. Mathew Jarvis, Dr. Scott Spitzer, Dr. Steve Stambough, Dr. Rob Robinson and Dr. David Traven. This was a follow-up to their pre-election panel back in October.
Here are some key insights from this panel:
Overall, regardless of all the polarization in our country and some voter suppression, democracy still kind of worked.
According to Dr. Stambough, the House of Representatives is the branch of congress that is supposed to be most responsive to the popular will, and the fact that Democrats took back this house, shows this responsiveness working. “If you have a president with approval ratings in the 40s (as Trump’s are), and his party didn’t take a hit, then there’d be something wrong,” said Stambough.
The days since the election have, however, been terrifying for democracy.
“We have a president who’s saying we shouldn’t count the votes…who has basically said he’s going to unilaterally suspend the first amendment [revoking a reporter’s press pass], who has made an interim appointment to acting Attorney General. I’m not clear on the constitutionality of it,” said Dr. Jarvis.
The election showed significant gains for Democrats.
“In the house, we’re looking at 35-40 seats flipped, seven governorships changed, and hundreds and hundreds of state legislative seats,” said Dr. Robinson.
“This was a sizable gain in the House, the largest pick up for the Democrats since 1974 [after Watergate],” said Dr. Stambough.
Wealthier suburbs, which historically have voted Republican, went Democrat.
“If we go back to the 1980s and the rise of the Sunbelt—the boom of the population out of cities and into sunbelt suburbs was the key that made it possible for Reagan Republicanism and Republican conservatives to start winning races at the national level in ways that they hadn’t been doing before. But that’s changed. This election, the Democrats dominated in the suburban districts,” said Dr. Spitzer.
“A lot of relatively wealthy suburbs, like Orange County, have been turned off by the Trump incarnation of the Republican Party,” said Dr. Robinson.
Lacking a majority in the Senate, Democrats will likely focus on things like voting rights and investigations of Trump.
“I definitely think we’re going to see more pressure to open up investigations into Trump’s relations with Russia and the 2016 election. I think Trump’s decision to get rid of Jeff Sessions the day after the election signals to me that he was preempting the Democrats from increasing the investigations. I suspect there will be more investigations…into Trump’s business ties across the world. There have been reports recently that his and his daughter’s companies have gotten trademarks from China—so I think there will be a lot more investigations into his trade relations with other countries,” said Dr. Traven.
This was the year of women.
We crossed the 100-woman threshold in the House, and these are almost all Democrats.
There was a historically high voter turnout.
113 million Americans voted. This was the first midterm in history to exceed over 100 million votes, with 49 percent of eligible voters participating in the election. 29 million Latinos voted, 12.8 percent of all eligible voters—this is a new high for Latino participation in midterm elections.
The Democrats could push for more of a focus on human rights in places like Yemen.
“With Trump’s ‘America First’ foreign policy, there’s been a lot less emphasis on the promotion of human rights abroad, a lot of emphasis on the promotion of democracy…Democrats might try to increase emphasis on human rights, such as pushing for an end of support for the Saudi government’s bombings in Yemen,” said Dr. Traven, who called the situation in Yemen “one of the most significant humanitarian crises of our time. The United Nations stopped counting the amount of casualties a couple years ago when it was at 10,000. There’s been reports of a likely famine that’s going to take place in Yemen if they don’t stop.”