The Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics hosted a virtual panel yesterday, titled “The Tuesday After,” featuring six political experts discussing last week’s general election.
John Weingart, associate director of the Institute, moderated the event, which addressed the direct consequences of the election, President-elect Joe Biden’s future, President Donald J. Trump’s legacy and the future of the press.
Nabila Baptiste, the state director of Biden’s campaign in New Jersey, discussed the historic nature of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s election.
“You can’t be what you can’t see and, so, to have a woman who is a woman, Black (and of) Indian descent in that power, it just gives a whole new generation of girls something to look up to, which is something very profound and important,” Baptiste said.
Another panelist, Michael DuHaime, a Republican strategist and partner at Mercury Public Affairs as well as an Institute adjunct faculty member, discussed Trump’s loss despite being the incumbent. He said Trump had an opportunity to work with Democrats when the pandemic started, especially in swing states with Democratic governors, such as Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, but chose not to.
He also said that typically when disruptions occur, such as the Vietnam War, civil unrest, recessions or other issues, the party in the White House tends to flip. DuHaime said in the case of former President Lyndon B. Johnson, he did not even run for re-election after the Vietnam War.
“So I’m not really surprised ... that there would be a change of power. I think what probably surprises many of us is that (every office) below (the presidency) is relatively status quo,” DuHaime said. “America likes divided government. We don't want anybody … with too much control or too much power."
Patricia Campos-Medina, a political strategist and the immediate-past president of Latinas United for Political Empowerment PAC, said Latinx communities were faced with several different issues since the pandemic began, including low-wage workers who suddenly became essential workers, the lack of protection from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the weaponization of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“It made us feel like this was a culmination of a series of attacks that the Trump Administration had waged against poor people, against immigrants and against essential workers across this country,” she said.
Campos-Medina said the Latinx vote usually swings either Republican or Democrat, with many Cuban voters in Florida consistently voting Republican. She said she was surprised that the media was shocked when Biden only won 70 percent of the Latinx vote nationally.
“What we need to figure out as Latinos ... is how do we push our political parties, both Republicans and Democrats, to target our community and invest in our community in a more targeted way and not assume that every … Latino voter is a single voter issue person,” she said.
Campos-Medina said New Jersey has had an increasing number of Latinx and Asian voters and said these groups should have more representation in the state’s government.
Regina M. Egea, the Garden State Initiative president, discussed some of the economic takeaways from the election.
“One is … these states are not monoliths … even though they may vote one way at the federal level, when you look at state fiscal matters, sometimes they have very different attitudes,” she said. “And number two, the polling in these matters doesn't seem to really get underneath the attitudes on fiscal matters inside the states, and (it is) something that we have to keep an eye on.”
She said fiscal matters important to New Jerseyans include job growth, bringing back workers to the workplace and potential cuts to government spending.
Colleen O'Dea, a reporter and editor at large of NJ Spotlight, discussed the re-election of New Jersey representatives who were first elected in the 2018 midterms.
She said there is still uncertainty concerning whether these delegates will manage to keep their seats past the next midterm election in two years, as the party in power tends to lose seats. She also said an upcoming redistricting could also mean the Democrats may have an opportunity to arrange the districts in their favor.
New Jersey voters also voted in favor of legalizing marijuana. Campos-Medina said voters have wanted to legalize marijuana for some time now, but said legislators now face challenges in implementing this ballot initiative.
She said there is backlash in response to a recent bill on taxing marijuana that state legislators introduced because it seems like legislators are rushing to pass the bill without allowing debate over it first.
“If they were really responsible about addressing the social justice concerns of marijuana, they ought to be engaged in those conversations. The bottom line is that we still have a whole generation of African American men and Latino men who were criminalized (for being) in the business of marijuana,” Campos-Medina said.
She said there should be a conversation on reparations for these affected communities and investment in cities like Newark and Passaic to allow the incarcerated to reenter society.
The panelists also discussed the influence of national media and the increased viewership of Fox News. David Cruz, a senior correspondent at NJ Spotlight and the moderator of "Chat Box & Reporters Roundtable," said people should be conscious of where they are getting their information.
“I think it’s more incumbent upon us, the consumers of this (news), to recognize that what you are seeing, by and large, on MSNBC and Fox is not the practice of journalism … I think we have to recognize that there is more than just Fox News … We need to get out of our bubbles,” Cruz said.
Weingart said overall, the historic nature of this year’s general election will likely impact the future of American politics.
“The fact that turnout (was) so much higher than it's ever been is noteworthy, both in terms of civics and in terms of strategizing for candidates and parties that want to move forward,” he said.