UC president, public policy school dean, UC Berkeley professor discuss midterm elections

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UC President Janet Napolitano, dean of the campus Goldman School of Public Policy, or GSPP, Henry Brady and campus professor of public policy Robert Reich speculated about the upcoming midterm elections’ possible outcomes and spoke about the state of the country as a whole during a panel Tuesday.

About 70 community members attended the panel, which was hosted by the GSPP and named “A wave or a ripple?”

In Brady’s opening statement, he first discussed the current composition of the Republican Party, stating that there are four main groups: white evangelicals, traditional conservative Republicans, libertarians and the populist right. This “odd” coalition, Brady said during the panel, will not last. He said during the panel that there is too much tension among each of these four groups for them to continue as an effective coalition.

Concerning the possible results of the 2018 midterm elections, Brady pointed to President Donald Trump’s current popularity.

“What will be the results?” Brady asked. “They look at the popularity of the president — Trump’s popularity is very low,and by that measure, it should be that Democrats win a lot of seats.”

Napolitano agreed with Brady, but speculated where Democrats are likely to win seats. Democrats are likely to win seats in the House of Representatives, while Republicans are likely to maintain their majority in the Senate, according to Napolitano.

Reich, however, disagreed with both Brady and Napolitano, adding that the Democrats would have to overcome a large margin in order to take back the house. Reich said he does not foresee it happening, but believes anything can happen.

In Reich’s opening statement, he criticized Trump’s behavior and stated that he is an “authoritarian.”

“He doesn’t believe in facts, he lies repeatedly and knows he’s lying, he denigrates the mainstream press,” Reich said. “These are all traits of demagogues and authoritarians. They are not the traits of someone who is president of a democracy.”

Brady, Napolitano and Reich were asked to share their opinions in the panel because of their extensive knowledge and background in politics, according to GSPP communications director Bora Reed.

Brady is a political scientist and an expert on elections and political polarization, while Napolitano and Reich have both served in presidential administrations, Reed said in an email.

“It was a lot of work, but we were able to field questions from across the country and the overall response to the event has been really positive,” Reed said in an email. “I think we’d love to do something like this again.”

Among the topics discussed, graduate student in the UC Berkeley Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management Kelsey Scheckel said the conversation about truth and politics is especially relevant to “our time.” GSPP and campus College of Engineering student Andrea Morgan said the discussion about the margin that Democrats would have to win over Republicans was particularly eye-opening.

Reich explained that these types of events are important because they allow students the opportunity to learn about and engage in political issues outside of a classroom environment.

“It gives students an opportunity to engage in a non-classroom … even non-seminar event, in which they can watch faculty members and administrators talk about important issues,” Reich said.

Contact Julie Madsen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Julie_Madsen_.