Zoe Berg, Photo Editor

This Tuesday, nearly 300 attendees logged onto the “Election 2020: What Happened and What’s Next” panel discussion hosted by the Institution for Social and Policy Studies and the Center for the Study of American Politics.

Led and moderated by Alan Gerber, professor of political science and director of ISPS, the panel featured a discussion about the course and outcome of the 2020 U.S. presidential election and the future of the country under a Biden administration. Members of the panel were professor of political science Jacob Hacker, assistant professor of political science Christina Kinane, professor of political science Isabela Mares, professor of medicine and Director of the Yale Institute for Global Health Saad Omer and David Mayhew, Sterling Professor emeritus of political science. The event was open to all members of the Yale community.

“I found it very interesting to hear that range of perspectives, and I thought that the panelists worked together really, really well and really did bring out their different areas of expertise,” Gerber said in an interview with the News. “Regarding the nature of the post-election period and how much there is to worry about [and] regarding the democratic erosion, I think … there were some differences of opinion on the panel.”

Specifically, Gerber described the event as an effort to bring together Yale experts with a “variety of different academic backgrounds” and to create rich discussion regarding politics in the United States.

The event opened with an introduction of the five panelists by Gerber. Then, each panelist was able to comment for five uninterrupted minutes. Afterward, the speakers engaged in a 15-minute panel discussion, followed by a question and answer session.

Hacker — who researches American public policy, economic inequality and insecurity in a cross-national perspective — was the event’s first speaker.

“The election went off remarkably well, given the pandemic and the amount of the degree to which President Trump had discredited the process,” Hacker said. “We’ve had enormous record turnout for the modern age, and I think that was partly because of the allowance of absentee balloting on a broader scale and partly because the stakes in the election were so high, and I think that’s a positive sign.”

Hacker also said in an interview with the News that the three key priorities of the Biden campaign going forward should be dealing with the immediate economic and health crisis, putting forward political reforms that promote a more inclusive democracy and having the United States play a greater leadership role in the fight against climate change.

Kinane followed with discourse about bureaucratic mismanagement in the past few years and the problematic nature of a government led by acting officials and deputy secretaries, which is a “hurdle” that Biden will face as he enters office after this transition period.

“I enjoyed getting to talk about why we have a transition period and the importance of it,” Kinane said to the News. “We want to prioritize certain cabinet level positions and secretaries over others, particularly in response to the pandemic and to make sure that there is an effective management structure within the federal government to be able to deal with the needed response.”

At the event, Kinane also expressed interest in her colleagues’ statements, specifically the role of public health and epidemiology in Biden’s administration, the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic needs to be handled on a federal level and a comparison of the authoritarian tendencies of American voters.

Mares led the discussion on authoritarianism and the strength of populism in the United states. Mares claimed that the Republican Party was complicit in the denial of Biden’s win and alleged delegitimization of the election, contributing to the landscape of “eroding democracies.”

Mayhew had a contrasting message, saying that the “fever is down” and the election was a victory of moderation.

“Professor Mayhew coming in and saying, ‘Well, perhaps it’s not time to be ringing the alarms about backsliding and democratic backsliding,’ and perhaps seeing a potential authoritarian in the Trump administration, [was] totally refuted [by Mares],” Kinane said. “I think the distinction between what they were saying was really interesting.”

While Mayhew’s approach to the outcome of the election differed from Mares’, the two expressed similar concerns about education. Mayhew described a “cleavage of diploma and non-diploma people” in the voting population. Further, Mayhew said he anticipates more stability in the White House with executive directives on climate change and other policy changes, although he predicted that the Green New Deal and Medicare For All would be improbable.

The final panelist to speak was Omer, who has experience in the areas of infectious diseases, respiratory pathogens, pandemic preparedness and vaccine acceptance.

“Public health is not usually part of the conversation in elections. Health care is — its treatment, disease management, insurance and that kind of stuff — but public health isn’t,” Omer said. “We need to invest in public health, we need to invest in making sure that we don’t try to do public health on the cheap and that our health departments and the public health system are adequately funded.”

Omer focused his discussion on the ineffective response of the Trump administration to the pandemic, claiming that “the science didn’t fail,” but the government’s management of the pandemic did. He also described the challenges associated with earning the general population’s trust of new vaccines.

Panelists were pleased with the event’s outcome and accessibility.

Gerber said that with the online format, although it was a different kind of conversation, “There’s a lot gained,” especially with the event’s high turnout and lack of technical difficulties.

“I think really the upside is the way that it makes it accessible to so many people,” Kinane said. “It does allow people who wouldn’t have otherwise necessarily been in the room to ask questions and be in the room.”

A similar event, with a greater focus on topics of political behavior, will be held on Dec. 1 at 7:30 pm.


Amelia Lower | amelia.lower@yale.edu