Skip to content

ACEC’s Annual Convention and Legislative Summit opened with presentations on the state of American politics from two Washington insiders, American Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Kevin Kosar and NPR Political Correspondent Mara Liasson. Kosar is an author and editor of several books on the U.S. Congress, but it was also noted that he has written extensively on the history of whiskey. “I write about American politics, so it’s no coincidence that I’d be attracted to strong drink,” Kosar joked.

Kosar gave a deeply researched, data rich presentation on ways to fix a political system that no longer works as well as it should. He discussed potential reforms that could create better incentives for candidates – and, in turn, better candidates for voters. Kosar’s argument is that our system of elections needs to be restructured to create better incentives. Access to voting has increased by leaps and bounds. Whereas it used to be that elections happened on one day and one day only, now there are myriad ways to cast a vote. Despite that, turnout has dropped precipitously in the last 50 years (with 2020 a notable exception). Kosar contends that this diminished participation is less a question of demand than supply. As public trust in all institutions continues to drop, putting more power in the hands of voters to choose candidates through reforms like open primaries, ranked choice voting, and nonpartisan redistricting could go a long way toward restoring faith – and participation – in elections. The happy byproduct of that, Kosar said, is that it could yield candidates who are more interested in governing than partisan sniping.

It was that climate of partisan sniping that formed the basis of Mara Liasson’s presentation. American politics, Liasson asserted, have become too much of a zero-sum game. She pointed to a New Yorker cartoon in which a dog tells a bartender, “It’s not enough that dogs win. Cats must also die.” Of course, it wouldn’t be a Washington gathering without handicapping the presidential race. When asked to predict the November outcome, Liasson indicated that inside the Beltway consensus gives former President Trump the edge. She went on to say that polls indicate voters don’t like either candidate but noted that elections are referendums on the incumbent. As Americans continue to experience sticker shock at the grocery store and the gas pump, inflation could be the deciding factor should Joe Biden lose reelection. Said Liasson: “Inflation defeats incumbents.”

Liasson also weighed in on another hot topic of discussion: the potential impact historically unpopular Vice President Kamala Harris may have on octogenarian Biden’s reelection prospects; and whom Trump may choose for a running mate. Noting that Trump will almost certainly choose a woman or a person of color (with South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott the likely frontrunner), Liasson said that this time, unlike in many elections, running mates will matter.

Still, even as Washington continues to be ruled by rancor, Liasson says there is cause for optimism. “There are a lot of people on both sides who care about this country getting better,” she said. “And that is something to feel good about.”


May 30, 2024



Scroll To Top