'I think it could be a mess': Author Ira Shapiro talks U.S. Election Day
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With Election Day one more sleep away, more than 40 million Americans have already cast their ballots.
The early voting turnout beat 2018’s midterm elections, when more than 36 million voters either mailed in their ballots or went in-person to advance polling stations.
The stakes in this election could not be higher, with a possible shift in the balance of power in Congress.
In the last six months alone, the ultra-conservative U.S. Supreme Court has overturned abortion rights, the former president’s residence was raided by the FBI looking for classified documents, and the January 6th Committee laid out their case in great detail on primetime broadcast television.
Despite President Joe Biden's nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court and a Democratic Congress passing the Inflation Reduction Act, forgiving student loans, and effectively cutting child poverty in half through emergency pandemic aid, the party is at risk of losing both the House and Senate to Republicans.
“It's a very troubling situation,” author Ira Shapiro said of the state of American democracy in an interview with The Blueprint.
(A picture of Ira Shapiro. COURTESY: Albright Stonebridge Group)
For more than a decade, Shapiro worked in senior positions in the U.S. Senate, as well as serving as President Bill Clinton’s chief trade negotiator with Canada and Japan. He went on to write three books covering the Senate. His latest book, The Betrayal: How Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans Abandoned America, came out in May.
His career has spanned over 45 years in Washington, focusing on international trade and national politics, giving Shapiro a unique view of the American political ecosystem. Shapiro also knows a thing or two about running a campaign — he worked for George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign. McGovern, who fell out of favour with the Democratic Party, went on to lose 49 of 50 states to Republican Richard Nixon.
Midterm elections have historically disfavoured the party in power, and Shapiro noted that only once since the post-war period has a president’s party managed to hold on to Congress halfway through their term.
Shapiro said that his fears about the extremists — the Trumpists — getting a firm hold on the Republican Party have come true, leaving much more at stake than a usual off-year election.
“A lot of this is going to depend on who turns out, who's got the intensity,” he said.
He pointed to the recent tragedy that saw House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 82-year-old husband attacked at home by a man with a hammer just two weeks away from the election, noting “it’s a dangerous time.”
Shapiro contrasted the response to the attack on Paul Pelosi with the 2017 shooting that nearly claimed the life of Congressman Steve Scalise at an annual Congressional baseball game.
“When [Scalise] was shot and almost killed, there was a bipartisan reaction that this was appalling. Democrats felt the same as Republicans about it,” Shapiro said. “Now we have Republicans joking about [Pelosi], or coming up with conspiracy theories about it.”
And while much of the coverage in the mainstream media has focused on key races in battleground states, Shapiro also finds himself concerned about local elections. He says there’s never been a situation in the history of the United States where citizens should really be concerned that officials in charge of certifying election results would violate their duty in favour of a partisan mission.
Reflecting on former President Trump’s refusal to concede to Biden in the 2020 presidential race, Shapiro remains concerned that others might follow in his footsteps and contest elections where the results are clear.
"I think it could be a mess," he admitted, noting that he believes it could take days or even weeks to determine which party will control the House and Senate. "I fear that the pattern of election denial and refusal to accept the results of any election you don't win will govern some of these people."
While recounts are often a regular part of the electoral process, Shapiro also worries about how pervasive Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen has become, opening up the door to not only election deniers but also hostile polling station observers.
“We're perfecting a system where people who don't like the elections — and also carry guns — feel that they have to be near the polls to make sure the elections are taking place fairly,” Shapiro said. “There's a very combustible mix of disinformation and violence out there.”
Looking back at the hearings, Shapiro believes representatives did a good job of putting the facts together and presenting them in a way that was both compelling and digestible for the average American.
“I do think that they have made it extremely difficult for the Justice Department to avoid indicting Trump and his colleagues, his associates,” he said, but noted that there’s a large percentage of American voters who just aren’t influenceable.
Ultimately, Shapiro would be disappointed to see Trump avoid indictment for both insurrection and sedition. He believes the fallout of the midterm elections will be significantly influenced by the possible indictment of the former owner of Trump Steaks.
“One of the Wall Street Journal columnists wrote, ‘Nobody is above the law, but it would be bad to indict Trump because bad things would happen.’ Well, if that's the case, somebody actually is above the law,” Shapiro said. “If you can't indict him because you fear what will happen afterwards, that puts him above the law. I don't think he's going to be left above the law.”