The MNSU Departments of Government, History, and Geography teamed up on Monday to provide an analysis of the 2018 midterms, looking at what happened in the election and what its results mean for American politics going forward.
Three speakers gave presentations at the panel. Dr. Danielle Thompson, a political science professor, MNSU alum and fellow at Princeton University, Dr. Christopher Federico, a professor of political psychology from the University of Minnesota, and Dr. Kevin Parsneau, a political science professor at MNSU who specializes in American politics all provided their analyses of the election results.
While each professor focused on different topics, they were unanimous in one thing: partisanship drove the 2018 midterms, and it’s not going away anytime soon.
Dr. Thompson discussed gender, ideology, and women’s representation in Congress. “A lot of people look at partisan polarization in terms of the voters,” Dr. Thompson said at the beginning of her presentation, “I’ve looked at it in terms of what kinds of candidates are running for office.”
The 2018 midterms ushered in a slew of liberal congress people, many of them women, “The candidates that we saw in 2018 were among the most liberal in decades,” Dr. Thompson said.
Increasingly, Democratic political power has come from women voters and women candidates, who are making up a larger percent of their elected officials as well. The republican Party by contrast, has struggled to put forward women candidates. “There are huge partisan differences,” Dr. Thompson said.
The second speaker, Dr. Federico, focused on the rise of authoritarianism in American politics. He agreed with Dr. Thompson that polarization was likely to get worse. “The divides from the 2016 election are widening,” he said that increasingly. “America is polarized by identity, not ideology.”
Dr. Federico said that authoritarianism is driving the psychology of partisan politics, especially in the aftermath of 2016. “Authoritarianism played a big role in the rise of Trump,” he said. But despite this, the president cannot necessarily be blamed for its rise. “The 2016 election may be as much of a consequence as a cause of authoritarianism,” Dr. Federico said.
The final speaker, Dr. Parsneau, provided five important takeaways from the election, for America nationally and for the State of Minnesota. According to Dr. Parsneau, the first two takeaways are that the Democrats had a good election year, and that Congress, now under divided government, was unlikely to get much done in its 116th session.
The third takeaway was the increase in voter turnout. “Turnout was extraordinarily high for a midterm election,” Dr. Parsneau said, although he noted that it did not exceed fifty percent.
Dr. Parsneau’s fourth takeaway was less optimistic, but very much in line with the other speakers. “America is extremely polarized and the 2018 elections confirmed that what happened in 2016 was not a one-off,” he said.
Dr. Parsneau noted the rancor of negative advertising in 2018, which reached levels unseen in American politics. Moreover, much of that advertising was not done by candidates themselves, but outside groups. “There was an extraordinary amount of negativity, much of it driven by outside money,” said Dr. Parsneau.
The final takeaway, special to Minnesota, was that its politics, while rancorous, were neither centered around Trump. “In Minnesota, voters broke along party lines as we’d expect them to, regardless of Trump,” he said, and added that “every other state in the country has one-party control of the legislature. Minnesota is the only state with a divided legislature.”
Feature photo by Mansoor Ahmad | MSU Reporter.