The view

UB experts offer insights on mid-term elections

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UB faculty members say the country still faces severe polarization and political divide after the midterm elections.


Published November 8, 2018

“There is no hope for bipartisanship on any significant policy issues. ”
James Battista, associate professor
Department of Political Science

The results of this week’s midterm elections offer dim prospects for bipartisan cooperation on significant policy issues, but may produce some political teamwork on smaller, regional issues, according to UB faculty members with expertise in politics and national affairs.

“There is no hope for bipartisanship on any significant policy issues,” said James Battista, associate professor of political science. “Bread-and-butter issues that do matter, such as infrastructure and putting together bills for roads and ports, will see some sort of teamwork between parties.”

Battista was among several UB faculty members who gathered Wednesday in Park Hall to offer their insights the day after the midterm elections. Joining Battista on the panel were Jacob Neiheisel, associate professor of political science, and Kari Winter, professor of American studies.

Neiheisel said politicians will try to stick with their party as much as possible, with the country facing a great divide and polarization of parties following the elections, he told several reporters who came to campus to hear UB experts’ perspectives on the elections.

From left, Jacob Neiheisel, associate professor of political science, and James Battista, associate professor of political science listen as Kari Winter, professor of American studies shares her thoughts on the midterm elections with local media.

From left: Jacob Neiheisel and James Battista, both associate professors of political science, listen as Kari Winter, professor of American studies, shares her thoughts on the midterm elections with local media. Photo: Charlotte Hsu

Politicians are pointing fingers at each other with little to no consequences, Winter said.  The U.S. has stumbled, as the country faces crises based on the fear of accountability, she said. “Is the United States capable of living up to the founding idea of liberal democracy?” she asked.

The shift of power in the House to Democrats is not alone enough to move the country in a positive direction, Winter said. Patriotism, she said, has lost its collective and mutual meaning across the nation. As hypocrisy and corruption continue to flood U.S. politics, there must be bigger changes to move the country forward, she said.

“The United States has regressed on all kinds of issues, and it’s really a dangerous time,” Winter said. “Hopefully, with Democratic control of the House of Representatives, there can be some accountability, change in conversation, progress for better infrastructure and more.”

Neiheisel noted that with Democrats gaining control of the House, they will now have the power to investigate the Trump administration.

“I fully expect to see a number of administration officials in front of power committees,” he said, “and the House using its subpoena power to bring them to account in some measured way.” But, he said, “There’s a danger for Democrats in going too far, as we have seen before with the Republicans in 1998 with Clinton.”

Battista said Democrats may pursue a strategy to make life so miserable for President Trump that he will, at some point, leaves office, although that is unlikely.

Winter said Trump is highly emotional and has become a danger because of it.

“I think we are going to have wilder and more emotional days ahead of us,” she said.

Battista said the big winners in the elections were “Democrats, women and diversity in general.”

“We are seeing a (diverse) makeup of state legislatures, governorships and, to a lesser extent, the U.S. House,” he said. And “this is the first time we have an openly gay man elected as governor (Jared Polis in Colorado).”

Native American women were elected to the House and some state legislatures for the first time, and Latina women were elected to the Texas Senate, he noted, which is changing significantly the traditionally narrow makeup of politicians in the U.S.

New York State also saw some big changes with the election — including Democrats possibly gaining effective control of the state Senate.

“We still have to wait and see after the organizational meetings,” Battista said, “since having a majority that mysteriously disappears is something that Democrats in the state Senate have achieved before.”

And regarding the state Legislature adopting the Child Victim’s Act and prison reform, and legalizing marijuana for recreational use, that’s all up in the air, Battista said, since it is unclear how Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who was re-elected for a third term on Tuesday, will respond.

“It all depends on how Cuomo sees his odds as a presidential candidate,” Battista said. “As Cuomo has been putting together his campaign for 2020, he has presented himself as the Democrat that keeps the ‘far lefts’ at bay.

“This could be a winning play for him to keep putting this identity forward, but it is also possible for him to be the one Democrat in the room as a progressive hero.”

Added Winter: “Discussing Cuomo, there’s a clear need for a third party that would be viable. When a party becomes ascendant, they need to be held to account.

“Cynthia Nixon (Cuomo’s opponent in the Democratic primary) brought up a lot of important issues, and I think (voters) need to put pressure on Cuomo to live up to his better potential,” she said.

“I think it would be healthy for New York to have more viability, policy debates, dialogue, conversations and town hall meetings.”