2018 midterms and the future of American politics: An insider’s view

Maddie Margioni, Contributing Writer

The Bucknell Institute for Public Policy (BIPP) series Pizza and Policy continued on Feb. 21 with a discussion about the 2018 midterms and their impact on the future of American politics. Associate Professor of Political Science Chris Ellis moderated the talk with one of his former students, Tyler Law ’11.


Law worked as the National Press Secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2017 to 2019. He recently started working for AKPD Message and Media, a media consulting firm which caters to Democratic candidates.


Law talked about the impact of his experience at the University. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the energy of the Bucknell campus, the professors who pushed me to think critically and the network of alumni who have supported me along the way. I’m so grateful for what Bucknell gave me and I’m eager to do my part to ensure more graduates enter public service,” Law said.


Law began his talk with the statement that “parties still matter.” While our current political climate makes it seem as though individual candidates are more important than the parties that they represent, Law believes that parties still hold an important place in American democracy.


The talk explained how the Democratic party won back 40 seats in the House after the midterms, which exceeds the average 25 seats that a president’s party typically loses during a midterm election. As the National Press Secretary for the DCCC, Law had an insider’s view into the workings of the midterms and the campaigns leading up to them. Law structured his explanation of the Democratic success in the midterms on three main points: backlash from U.S. President Donald Trump, individual candidates, and the “great realignment.”


The Democratic party utilized the backlash from Trump’s election and first year in the presidency to recruit volunteers for Democratic campaigns nationwide. Law stated that volunteering for congressional races is normally at a lower level compared to volunteering for a presidential campaign. However, with the 2018 midterms, campaign volunteering reached a presidential level, and in fact, there were “too many volunteers.”


2018 was deemed the “Year of the Women,” as more women were elected to the House (most of whom are Democrats) than ever before and more people ran as first-time candidates than in previous years. Law brought up the example of Mikie Sherrill, who was a first-time female Democratic candidate for Congress in New Jersey’s 11th district. Sherrill is also a mother and a veteran. Sherrill unseated the incumbent through her own grassroots campaign, an example of a campaigning phenomenon that happened throughout the country.


Finally, the “great realignment” is the name for the shift of suburban areas from the right to the left of the political spectrum. Law recognized that we live in a highly divided country. Additionally, he thinks that because so many Democrats have been willing to stray from the party line, such as coming out against Speaker Nancy Pelosi, they will end up keeping the newly flipped traditionally right-leaning suburbs.


“One main takeaway was that campaigns are perpetual affairs at this point. As soon as someone wins an election, they’re already fundraising and strategizing for the next one. Politics, maybe more so than ever, is more about marketing and less about governing,” Ellis said.


“I thought the talk was really insightful and made some really great points. I hope I can attend more in the future,” Emily Taylor ’21 said.


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