How will the recent midterm election affect politics in the future? That was the question posed to a panel of experts Monday night at an event hosted by the University of Oregon School of Law and the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics.
The answer? It’s too soon to know.
The event, called “Game Change or More of the Same? Assessing the Midterm Election,” featured speakers Alison Gash, a UO political science professor; Margaret Hallock, a Ph.D. economist and director of the Wayne Morse Center; Jeff Mapes, a senior political reporter at Oregon Public Broadcasting; and Kerry Tymchuk, executive director of the Oregon Historical Society.
Panelists first discussed their general thoughts on the election before moving forward with questions from both the host Dan Tichenor, director of the Wayne Morse Center’s Program for Democratic Engagement and Governance.
Gash began the conversation by recognizing that while the audience may be feeling some “election fatigue,” she said it’s important to note the role that states, especially battleground states, have played in this election and how those battleground states may be changing.
Mapes continued, asking, “What election fatigue?” as he looked at the crowd of about 100 people who turned out to hear about the election. Mapes talked more specifically about Oregon’s election. “More people voted in this Oregon midterm than almost any election we’ve had before,” he said, attributing that to automatic voter registration and mail-in ballots.
Tymchuk added that in Oregon, the results of the gubernatorial race are nothing new. He said Knute Buehler earned 22 percent of the vote in Multnomah County, where Portland is located, which is the same percentage that other, more staunch republicans have earned in the past in that county.
Hallock noted that while the number of diverse women elected to office this year may be a game changer for Congress, it may also result in more polarization of the two political parties.
The conversation turned toward President Donald Trump and all the panelists agreed that his presidency has encouraged more young people to become politically active.
When asked by an audience member if the recently divided Congress will lead to political paralysis or if the congress will be able to get things done, Hallock responded that, “I am happy that Trump will not get anything passed that Nancy Pelosi will not sign off on.”
Gash agreed, saying we are “probably going to see a fair amount of paralysis.”
Other questions from the audience ranged in topic from gun reform to the role of technology in the election to the upcoming 2020 census and presidential election.
Though the panelists said they were hopeful for the future, it’s still too early to know what effect the elections will have on the future of politics.
“We don’t really have a clear sense of what our national policymakers are going to address,” said Gash. “We don’t know what this more gender-equal group and diverse group is going to do.”