Jonathan Chait, senior editor at The New Republic where he writes their “TRB” column as well as his own blog, joined us for a postelection wrap-up and lessons for progressives going forward at Washington, D.C.’s Busboys and Poets as a part of the Progressivism on Tap series.
Chait spoke about election results, and he also touched on foreign policy, immigration reform, and health care. To explain the election results he focused on the importance of structural factors, such as the fact it was a midterm, and slow job growth. He underscored the fact that Democrats were bound to lose at least 45 seats as a “baseline.” He further pointed out that a few congressional seats that Democrats won in 2008 were essentially “rented” because of unusually high youth turnout in generally more conservative districts.
He responded to the criticism coming from many progressive journalists about the size and structure of the stimulus by saying that even if the stimulus were bigger it would not have been a political game changer. He thinks that the Obama administration got every dollar they probably could from Congress. In response to Tea Party criticisms of the stimulus, Chait commented, “People are upset about the economy, but they are also upset about what is done to fix the problem.”
Many progressives believe that the midterms might not have gone as badly for them had Obama struck a more economically populist tone during the past two years. Chait, however, is not convinced of this explanation. He argued that the battle for financial regulation reform was a test case for this line of argument, and that “knocking the banks” during that time did not really “move the needle” in terms of public support.
Read about more Progressivism on Tap events here.