Willie Brown has spent his life in public service. He served over 30 years in the California State Assembly – 15 of those years as Speaker – before becoming the first African American mayor of San Francisco. For the past 10 years, he’s been writing a column for the San Francisco Chronicle on politics, movies, art, and anything else on his mind. When he took the podium at the Goldman School of Public Policy recently, he touched on lessons from all those experiences. But, his main focus was the 2018 midterms and the upcoming general election.
Brown began by looking back to 2016, explaining why he predicted Donald Trump would win the presidency. Brown, a lifelong Democrat and friend of Hillary Clinton, says Clinton could have been one of the best presidents in history. But, Brown knew that Trump had the skill and ability to connect with voters in a way Clinton could not. Brown also traces Clinton’s loss across several election cycles, when Democrats lost the House and the Senate during the Obama years.
Trump’s victory however, could be the key to the Democratic Party’s recovery, Brown says. He says Trump has failed to build a coalition beyond his core supporters that voted him into office. That helped Democrats win in states like Michigan and Wisconsin in 2018, where Clinton lost in 2016. Brown also credits Nancy Pelosi with organizing the party to help take back the House. But, in order to keep that momentum going and defeat President Trump in 2020, Brown says Democrats have to identify a strong candidate with the same ability to move voters. He says there are three strong options from California, and one in particular he hopes to see on the ballot.
Watch The Honorable Willie Brown on the 2018 Midterms and Strategy for 2020
The results of the 2018 midterm elections are in, but what’s next? Will a Democratic-controlled House and Republican-led Senate be able to work together? What do the results mean for 2020? And, what should Democrats do to capitalize on midterm gains? Professor Emeritus Sanford A. Lakoff shared his thoughts on those questions and more at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UC San Diego Extension. He begins by looking at midterm turnout, changing demographics, and increasing political polarization. He notes that many point to the Gingrich Revolution as the beginning of modern-day polarization, and suggests President Trump has only added to the trend.
But, there is also division within the Democratic Party. Several newly-elected representatives have pledged not to vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House. Lakoff argues that would be a mistake. He cautions that the coalition risks becoming a “Tea Party of the Left” if they are unwilling to compromise, especially without holding either the Senate or the Presidency. He suggests Pelosi should pledge to only serve as Speaker until 2020, and prepare new Democratic representatives to take on leadership positions in the future.
Lakoff then lays out what he believes should be the top priorities for Democrats over the next two years. His list includes healthcare, immigration reform, climate change, and gun control. While he admits it’s unlikely Democrats will make significant progress on the issues, Lakoff says the effort would show voters what they can expect should Democrats take the Senate and White House in 2020. Lakoff also suggests lawmakers go beyond legislation, and set up think tanks and non-partisan commissions on the major issues of our time. Those include electoral reform, medical coverage, gun violence, the national debt, and ensuring employment with the development of artificial intelligence. But, the ability to make any progress on any of these issues may rest on an unpredictable variable: the Robert Mueller investigation.
Watch Breaking Down the 2018 Midterm Election Results with Professor Emeritus Sanford Lakoff — Osher UC San Diego
Have Americans lost the ability to talk politics? Recent studies show the country is more divided than ever before, and it’s only getting worse. In a lively talk at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, professor Robert Reich outlines what he sees as the main causes of the problem, and how we might be able to address them.
Political fights are a staple of American history. From the Civil Rights Movement to Vietnam, we haven’t always agreed. But, we used to agree on how to disagree, Reich says. He believes we have lost our respect, tolerance, and openness to the ideas of others. And making matters worse, we no longer trust government institutions to handle our disagreements.
Reich lays out three key factors he believes led to the current climate: geographic tribalism, stagnant incomes, and the media. Our opinions are most influenced by those around us, he says. And over time, we have separated ourselves into ‘red states’ and ‘blue states,’ becoming entrenched in political identities with little tolerance for outside opinions. Incomes have stopped growing with the economy, leading many to feel the system is rigged. Reich says politicians have latched on to that feeling to gain support. At the same time, a proliferation of media outlets has left each fighting for attention. One way to catch a viewer’s eye he says, is to stoke anger.
But, Reich says all is not lost. He lays out how each of us can do our part to bring civility back to political discourse. It all starts he says, with one conversation.
Watch Robert Reich: Why the Common Good Disappeared and How We Get It Back
There are just days left before the 2018 midterms, and analysts are split over what we can expect. Will there be a so-called blue wave, or will Republicans retain control of all branches of government?
That’s just one of the questions addressed by three political heavy-hitters at the Goldman School of Public Policy during a live-streamed discussion this week. Professor Robert B. Reich, Dean Henry E. Brady, and University of California President and Goldman School Professor Janet Napolitano gave their best predictions for Tuesday. Napolitano predicts Democrats will take back the house, but possibly lose ground in the Senate. Reich points to gerrymandering and voter suppression, saying it’s unlikely Democrats will be able to pick up a majority in either house. Brady looks at historical methods of predicting midterm results, but questions whether the old rules still apply.
But, the discussion doesn’t stop at predictions. The panel weighs in on what they see as the biggest issues for voters, how we got to this point in American politics, and what might happen next. Reich lays out three things he believes the Democratic party needs to focus on whether they win or lose on Tuesday, and gives a riveting monologue about the role of truth in a democracy. The discussion ends on a high note, with Reich and Napolitano sharing why they’re optimistic about the future of politics in the United States.
Watch The Coming Wave? 2018 Midterm Election Panel Featuring: Robert Reich, Janet Napolitano, and Henry E. Brady
Two new programs with New Yorker staff writer George Packer explore the association between American politics and identity. “Americans, aided by cable news and social media, have sorted themselves geographically and mentally into mutually hostile and incomprehensible worlds,” says Packer. This tribalism makes it very difficult for people to communicate or to truly listen to one another.
“None of those groups speaks to the whole country… they don’t speak to us as citizens, and they don’t find a way of being truly inclusive,” he says. “Where we cannot understand each other, we see each other as illegitimate in some ways. To even speak to someone from a different tribe is to give them a legitimacy they don’t deserve. And each tribe hopes and thinks the other will somehow disappear, either by being beaten in the polls, or by dying off, or being walled off. It’s as if they can’t acknowledge that the country is made up of more than their own tribe.”
There are many reasons for this increased tribalism, but the collapse of the institutions that have traditionally supported people economically is a contributing factor. In recent decades, fewer and fewer corporations offer job security or competitive wages, and the middle class is disappearing. “The simple answer I think,” says Packer, “is that a smaller pie, divided into less and less equal slices among people who look less and less alike, drives them towards cynical and hateful extremes.”
Watch Harry Kreisler’s interview with George Packer, Identity Politics and the Decline of American Institutions, as well as Packer’s UC Berkeley Graduate Lecture, American Identity in the Age of Trump.