“Go Herons! Go Statesmen! See you tomorrow!” shouted Chuck Todd, Chief White House Correspondent and Political Director for NBC News, in closing MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” on Friday night. Donning the emblematic purple, orange, green and white Hobart and William Smith tie, the national correspondent exhibited HWS pride in preparation for his visit to Saturday morning’s President’s Forum.
“Chuck Todd is the hardest working journalist,” remarked President Mark D. Gearan as he spoke to the standing-room only audience filled with students, faculty, and alumni at the opening of this year’s President’s Forum during Homecoming and Family Weekend. “He is one of the keenest observers of American politics, and as such, is the perfect person to engage in conversation about what the upcoming midterm elections will mean for our country in the next few years.”
“This week started with witchcraft, an actual fight broke out during a Senate debate, and it ended with a comedian testifying – in character – on Capitol Hill,” said Todd in opening; a strange, but accurate, briefing on our country’s current political state. “It’s crazy out there, and I think we need to step back a little.”
Todd has had the opportunity to see the intricacies of the U.S. government firsthand, interviewing key players in American politics today, and holding responsibility for all aspects of NBC’s political coverage. “A friend of mine observed: The qualified people don’t seem to be doing their jobs,” said Todd as he immediately got to the heart of the problems facing our government. “There are good, smart people in Congress and the Senate. However, when all of these smart people get together in Washington, they get irrational and form a pack mentality. This is what the country sees.”
As a result, the future of the country is looked upon with anger and anxiety, a potent recipe for fear. “Polls show that parents think that their children will live in a more troubled American than the one they grew up in,” posited Todd. “This fear for their future is un-American. People come to America so that their children can have a better life than the one they had. It is ingrained in our culture.”
With midterm elections just around the corner, Todd’s words were particularly relevant. “The Conservatives have a very enthusiastic base, and the Democratic base is very split, with many party members feeling that the Democrats in Congress are out of touch and that the President is not fighting as he said he would,” explained Todd. The challenges facing the Democratic Party, who just two years ago ‘over performed’ are severe, and will most likely, he believes, cost them the House.
While he predicts that the Republicans will take control of Congress, he reiterated that the Democrats do not struggle alone. “Republicans have a major demographic problem,” said Todd, referring to the rapidly growing Hispanic population, and their gradual turn away from the Republican Party. “As weak as Obama looks, there is no Republican who feels like they can beat him. The Republicans have to become more adept at navigating immigration. The numbers in the 2012 election won’t add up if the Hispanic vote takes a dramatic turn. If things go really poorly, in 10 years, Texas could become a swing state.”
“What will Washington look like over the next six months?” asked Todd, a question on many minds as the Tea Party movements are broadcast on television, and the vicious exchanges between parties proliferate in the news. “What health care was, the budget will be in 2011.” Todd also predicted that there would be major crises within state governments due to lack of revenue and reluctance to enforce further taxation.
What it ultimately comes down to, believes Todd, is a dire need for reorganization in Washington. “If the government was a private company, it would bring in a consultant right now – and that’s what Congress needs – to be reconstructed,” said Todd.
“I love what the American government could be. I’m a total political geek that way,” laughed Todd. However, despite his desire to remain optimistic, he offered some much needed advice in a time when pessimism reigns. “It would be nice if we stopped demonizing our government. We’ve made it so that the smartest people don’t want to get involved.”
“I was brought up to idolize the U.S. Congress and the Senate, but that’s not the culture we live in right now,” said Todd, remembering a time when his father told him that if he worked hard and acted with honor, he could make a difference as a Senator or a Congressman.
The key to reviving our government is not simply electing “more qualified” individuals, but providing them with the support they require to repair our country. “If we keep beating up our political system, it will eventually just break and none of it will work. This will not be a leading democracy, a shining city and beacon to the world. What we need is a little more idealism. I wish we could turn down the bickering.”
Before departing, Todd answered many questions posed by audience members who inquired on issues ranging from Senatorial term limits to State budget issues.
Todd is also co-host of MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown,” and the on-air political analyst for “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams,” “Today,” “Meet the Press” and MSNBC. Todd served the editor-in-chief of National Journal’s “The Hotline” for six years.
Established in the winter of 2000 by President Mark D. Gearan, the President’s Forum Series is designed to bring a variety of speakers to campus to share their knowledge and ideas with students, faculty and staff of the Colleges, as well as with interested community members.