LEWISBURG — The results of the recent mid-term elections, how social media influences voters, the challenges facing a future generation of leaders and the importance of keeping a mind open to opposing views were among a number of topics discussed Wednesday evening between CNN anchor and chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper and Bucknell University President John Bravman.
Tapper was a guest speaker Wednesday at The Weis Center for the Performing Arts at Bucknell University. He appeared in person with Bravman to discuss “The State of American Democracy” as part of the Bucknell Forum.
Bravman kicked off the evening by asking Tapper for his thoughts on the results of the recent midterm elections.
“I guess I was surprised, and maybe I shouldn’t have been, at how much voters were paying attention,” said Tapper. “And by that I mean, if you look at the results in Arizona, the state treasurer is a Republican incumbent and not a liar about the 2020 election. She was reelected. But every other Republican running in Arizona — who were all liars about the 2020 election — none of them were elected. So the degree to which voters were paying attention surprised me in a good way.”
Tapper said he often checked in with pollsters he knows and trusts but couldn’t get a real read on what might happen.
“I knew that there were a couple of forces at play — the economy not doing great, President Joe Biden not being particularly popular, it’s a midterm election year, The people who were out there and this pollster wasn’t sure how it would play out and how it played out was the Democrats held the Senate, maybe even will pick up another senate seat … Republicans took the house but the more extreme candidates running in swing seats or swing districts generally speaking did not win.”
“At the end of the day, it’s the great thing about America. It really is Pennsylvanians going to the ballot box and saying, ‘this is what I want.’”
Bravman questioned whether or not the rise in conspiracy theories in the past four to eight years might have played some role in the way the election played out.
Regardless of some of the mayhem and chaos of the past few years, Tapper said he still believes in the electoral process, and he thinks most Americans do, too, with one exception.
“I think the majority of Republicans don’t (trust the Electoral process),” he said.
That’s based on years of lies about the integrity of the election told to them by President Trump and his supporters, and relayed by other Republican officials, Tapper said, not a problem based on facts.
“There is a trust deficit in elections among American voters … and it’s because Donald Trump has been questioning the election results,” he said.
Still, Tapper said he has hope for the future generations, like many of those in attendance Wednesday night.
“I think the role students play in the future is that they’ll have a tremendous influence … they’re so impressive, so smart,” he said. “There are a lot of things they can change.”
But first, they need to stop being so hard on themselves, he said.
“This generation needs to be a little kinder to itself, a little more forgiving,” he said. “Every one of us struggles, every one of us has had imposter syndrome, every one of us has felt like we would never be successful. Let yourselves fail. Be nicer to yourselves.”
Following his discussion with Bravman, Tapper took questions from the audience.
Bucknell freshman Mark Madison asked Tapper how he thought Americans could come closer together in their partisan views when polarization seems to get more attention.
The goal is not to have everyone agree, explained Tapper, but rather the goal is to not have the demonization of either side.
“This is basically a 50/50 country,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, but we need to be able to get along. I don’t know how to solve this problem, but it’s not healthy. The loudest mouths and the most defamatory speakers are often rewarded with attention.”
The Bucknell Forum is a speaker series that since 2007 has featured national leaders, scholars and commentators who have examined various issues from multidisciplinary and diverse viewpoints. Tapper is the second speaker in the series of five speakers. Condoleezza Rice — the first female African American secretary of state and first woman to serve as national security adviser — appeared via Zoom to kick off the series in September.