By Ryan Bronaugh
A bleak economy fueled the fires of political change in the 2010 elections, and will continue to do so in the upcoming primaries of 2011. That was the unanimous opinion of a distinguished panel of journalists and political strategists who convened in Monmouth recently as part of the Midwest Matters Initiative sponsored by Monmouth College.
According to all four members of the panel, which included Mike Glover- political reporter for the Associated Press, Steve Grubbs-political strategist for the Republican Party, Rick Pearson-political reporter for the Chicago Tribune, and David Wilhelm-political strategist for the Democratic Party, the massive Republican sweep of the 2010 elections, as well as the Tea Party phenomenon, was driven primarily by a poor U.S. economy, and unless that economy begins to show signs of improvement, we will most likely see a similar sweep in the 2012 elections.
Moderated by adjunct political science professor Robin Johnson, the panel discussed the results of the 2010 elections, voter turnout, strategies used by both parties to gain voter favor, and many of the hot topics affecting the political climate, such as, health care, immigration, and the economy. Unlike other recent elections, the War on Terror, which consumed $660.4 billion in 2010 in military spending alone, was apparently not a hot issue in this last election, and was not discussed.
Most panelists agreed that there will be some gridlock in Congress as a result of the elections, however, the view on the measure of the congestion varied from one panelist to the next. While Mike Glover of the Associated Press felt strongly that Congress will do little between now and the elections of 2012 due to a Republican effort to stalemate Democratic favor among voters, Steve Grubbs stated that if Congress manages to sign off on the budget, than “they’ve done the only job that’s really expected of them, and they have to come up with a budget.”
On health care, the panel appeared split. Glover, and Wilhelm, thought the bill will move along through Congress, and some agreement will be made and a bill passed. According to Glover, health care is “too much of a heart felt issue,” and no one wants to be held responsible for Americans not being able to receive proper medical care. Pearson, and Grubbs, both stated that the Republicans would send a response bill, but it will be symbolic and, “nothing much will come of it.”
While the details fluctuated among panelists, the general thought on immigration was that it will most likely not go anywhere. Grubbs said a bill will move through Republicans, but nothing as extreme as what we saw in Arizona will likely be repeated.
As for the future economy, all opinions looked grim. Pearson predicted a very slow reduction in unemployment over the next two years, a result he said of, “poor state budgets, no more support checks will be coming in from Washington,” and “municipalities are reeling even more.” He went on to say that, “voters want to see outs; blood on the floor, but no one wants it to be them—their programs on the chopping block.”
Wilhelm pointed out that a recent poll showed that, of the voters who said Wall Street was to blame for the poor economy, 60/40 voted Republican. He added that government “doesn’t have much impact on economic growth, especially in the short term.” Glover agreed that there isn’t much government can do for the economy, and Grubbs cautioned Monmouth College graduates to seek practical skills after college, skills that will help them land good paying jobs.
Prior to questions taken from the audience, Johnson asked all four panelists whether the Tea Party phenomenon is as strong in the Midwest as it is in other parts of the country and why. There was no disagreement that it was in this election, and that it was a direct response to angst over the poor economy. “People are freaked out, and the Tea Party was a funnel,” Wilhelm said. Pearson said he thought the party “will never get as organized as a true third party,” but will continue to play a role as long as the poor economy is a factor. Grubbs agreed and added, “It’s important to understand where the motivation is coming from. The largest capitalist country on earth is asking the largest communist country on earth to loan it more money. Americans are seeing that this is not the America they grew up in.”
Panel moderator Robin Johnson closed the discussion by announcing that The Midwest Matters Initiative will continue to hold events, such as this week’s panel. He said our goal is to “not only educate its students about important Midwest issues, but to be a part of the solution, as well.”