After hosting an election night party for students with a level of excitement that she said rivaled watching the Super Bowl, Journalism Senior Leader-in Residence Carole Simpson said there is more engagement in the political process now than in recent memory.
“I am thrilled with the election because there were 11 million more voters this year than in 2008,” said Simpson, a former ABC News anchor and reporter whose career spans four decades. “There seems to be more activism than I’ve ever seen as a political reporter. People are turning out and having their voices heard.”
Simpson’s remarks came during the panel discussion “Behind the Curtain: What Just Happened? What’s Next?” that she moderated on November 9 at the Cutler Majestic Theatre. She was joined by well-known journalists and politicians to discuss the 2012 presidential and Massachusetts senate races. The event was hosted by MassINC and Commonwealth Magazine and held in partnership with Emerson College and WBUR.
The panelists were former Massachusetts Governor William F. Weld; Brian McGrory, columnist for the Boston Globe; Jim Braude, commentator for NECN and NewsTalk 96.9 FM; and Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group and WBUR-FM 2012 election pollster.
On the presidential race, McGrory blamed part of Republican Mitt Romney’s loss on his being identified with the party’s conservative social views that are out of lockstep with many. “He was pushed too far to the right” to compete with other Republicans in the primaries and caucuses, McGrory said. “He never properly recovered to become the moderate I believe he truly is.”
Simpson asked whether the nation’s increasing racial diversity was a factor.
“The country has changed. Obama won 93 percent of the black vote (and) 75 percent of the Latino vote,” she said. “It’s like the Republican party didn’t realize that and never went after those people.”
“I agree that’s a major factor,” McGrory said. “But I still think that if Romney…was straighter on the issues and presented a specific plan on how to remedy our (economy), he would have gotten more votes from each of these groups.”
“In 1992, 87 percent of the electorate was white. This time it’s 72 percent,” Koczela said. “If that’s not cultural change in this country, then I don’t know what is.”
The panelists also talked about the nationally watched Massachusetts U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Elizabeth Warren, who won the election to become the state’s first female U.S. senator.
“When you’re running against both Elizabeth Warren and Barack Obama, which he essentially was, it’s a pretty high hurdle,” Braude said.
Weld added, “In a presidential year, there was an unusually large ‘Democrats Come Home’ phenomenon.”
A second panel discussion moderated by Tom Ashbrook, host of National Public Radio’s On Point, looked at what’s ahead for President Obama’s second term. On the panel were Nina Easton, columnist and editor of FORTUNE; Nicholas Burns, professor of international politics at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government; and Elaine Kamarck, lecturer of public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Photos by Aja Neahring '13