Capehart and Gerson on Queen Elizabeth’s political impact and new polls ahead of midterms

Washington Post associate editor Jonathan Capehart and Washington Post opinion columnist Michael Gerson join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including Queen Elizabeth's impact on the American political landscape and a look at new polls that paint a fresh picture of the electorate just two months ahead of the midterm elections.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Waves of sadness and remembrances of Queen Elizabeth are part of conversations everywhere, as Americans and the rest of the world come to grips with her death.

    Separately, results from a "PBS NewsHour"/NPR/Marist poll are painting a fresh picture of where the American electorate stands just two months ahead of the general election.

    For analysis of these and other developments this week, we turn to Capehart and Gerson. That is Washington Post associate editor Jonathan Capehart and his Post colleague opinion columnist Michael Gerson. David Brooks is away.

    And hello to both of you on this Friday night.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Hi, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And let's start by talking about the woman, no one else like her that we know of, Jonathan, on the throne for 70 years at a time when not just Great Britain, but the world is going through enormous change.

    What are you thinking about her, what she stood for?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, to my mind, she stood for consistency, and stability, and conservatism, in that she, for her people, was someone who was never-changing or slow to change.

    People, I bet, today who don't like the monarchy probably didn't like her, with her passing, are probably thinking about what she meant to them in terms of how they feel about their country and where it's going.

    I love the fact that we watched this monarch, who became queen as a young woman, and watched her change, evolve, age. And, in that time, we saw that the queen has a dysfunctional family. And she has to deal with all sorts of things that regular families have to deal with. It's just that she's a monarch. And we're watching it all in real time.

    And I think that "The Crown" coming out when it did in her later years…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The TV…

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    … the TV show on — TV series on Netflix, which I have watched in its entirety twice, is…

  • Michael Gerson:

    I have too, by the way.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    It's really good. It's really good and really fascinating to watch.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    But I'm going to stop talking, because there's one person at this table who has actually interviewed a member of the royal family.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    He was just telling us that he's talked to, interviewed King Charles III.

  • Michael Gerson:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Michael, first of all, his — what about the king's mother? What do you think she leaves us with? And then let's talk about him.

  • Michael Gerson:

    Well, they call it the show when you're in Britain, the monarchy. But it's not really just a show.

    The British people, as a matter of political philosophy, have divided their political aspirations into two institutions, one of them, the parliamentary system that reflects needed change, and the other one the monarchy, which reflects tradition, history and a slower form of change that you were talking about.

    In the United States, we try to combine both those things in the president, to some extent. He's supposed to play both roles, like George Washington did, for example. But there have been many people who failed that — failed that job.

    But it worked for the last 70 years because of her. Their form of government worked properly because of her for the last 70 years.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Worked properly.

    And now we're on to a new regime. And we want to hear from both of you about what you expect.

    But, Michael, I mean, you were telling us you have spent time talking with him. What do you expect?

  • Michael Gerson:

    At Highgrove.

    He's a significantly underestimated public figure. When he first started, for example, to talk about organic farming, everybody thought he was bombing, OK? And he was a pioneer. When he started talking about the Amazon rain forest, preserving it, that has become one of the main environmental issues in our world.

    When he started talking about the dehumanization of modern architecture, particularly in public housing, it was a wise and interesting contribution to the public discussion.

    So, I'm in the camp I think that he is going to take to that office quite well.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What do you think about him? But — and, Jonathan, what do you think about the monarchy and does it survive in this time?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, I'm going to share something that I told Michael I would not share on air, but I will say it anyway.

    Yes, way back when, I had a crush on then-Prince Charles, prince of Wales. But now he is — I said it.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    But King Charles III — and I take everything that Michael has said, but he is facing challenges.

    He's got a commonwealth where a lot of countries in Africa are not celebrating, the way people in England are mourning — I shouldn't say celebrate — mourning, in the same way that people in England are. There is a CNN reporter whose reports from Nairobi are really sort of bracing in this moment, sort of reminding people that there are people in Africa who think of the British as imperialists, as colonizers.

    And they want amends. They want apologies. Prince William, and now the prince of Wales and princess of Wales, they were in the Caribbean in March. And they faced protests along the way. So, I also think Prince Edward was also on a trip, he and his wife, in the Caribbean, where they face protests. So…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And in our own report a few minutes ago, we heard from Jamaica…

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … people saying, the time for kings and queens has passed.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Right.

    So I think, for King Charles III, he — the dilemma for him now is, how do you hold the monarchy together when countries want to leave the commonwealth, countries want to remove the British monarch as the sovereign for their — of their country?

    You also have — they also have to deal with Australia talking about wanting to leave, New Zealand, Scotland, Wales. The challenge for him — the challenge for Queen Elizabeth II was always how to keep the monarchy going. For him, I think it's going to be, how do you keep the monarchy — how will he help it survive?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How do you think it's going to be different?

  • Michael Gerson:

    Well, I think it is different in America in a certain way.

    Those were — those objections to imperialism were — are quite real and important. But when we look back at our history, we got our sense of national destiny from the Puritans, OK? We got our sense of the first great awakening and the evangelical movement from John Wesley and George Whitefield, OK?

    We got our entire approach of republican governance from the Whigs, British Whigs, OK? We are — have a tie to Britain not just because their family has a soap opera. This is actually a deep tie of belief and background that's different than many other countries.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's — we're talking about two democracies, but two very different democracies, and at a time when, Jonathan, democracies have been under attack around the world.

    This is a democracy that, yes, it's changed, but it's — the vote is still there.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    The vote — yes, the vote is still there. We have seen a peaceful transfer of power from one monarch to another…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes. That's right.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    … whereas the cousins over here, we're still grappling with an attempted coup and one that could happen again.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And speaking of the vote, we want to share some of the numbers from our — Michael, from our poll that we did this week with NPR and Marist, where, among other things, we asked people what issues mattered to them the most.

    And it's been inflation, inflation, inflation, but we're now seeing that, especially among Democrats, more than a third of them are saying abortion, the issue of abortion is driving them to have a greater interest in this election. What does that tell you?

  • Michael Gerson:

    Well, it doesn't tell me as much about the issue of abortion, which has been divisive for a long time. It tells me a lot about the perception of radicalism of the Republican Party, OK?

    This is a case where, rather than dealing in the aftermath of Dobbs in a responsible way with these issues, Republicans looked like they wanted to undermine the health of a 10-year-old, OK? Or the attorney general of Texas has said that he would enforce sodomy laws if the Supreme Court moves on those things.

    Those are deeply radical notions that Republicans have been led to. So I think Republicans — I think that Democrats have been more effective, not in changing minds on abortion, but saying you can't trust Republicans with issues like abortion, because they're just not fit for it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What do these numbers tell you, Jonathan?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    I agree with Michael.

    You can look at where people are in terms of inflation, immigration, crime, abortion. And I take your point that what we see in these numbers, it might not — it maybe isn't about people saying, we support abortion, but it is about the radicalism or — of Republicans or, as I look at it, the attack on freedom, if you're going to attack a woman's right to bodily autonomy.

    Then another Supreme Court justice in a concurring opinion says, we're going to attack the right of same-sex couples to engage in intimacy, to get married, we're going to attack the right of people to have access to contraception. And I think, because of that radicalism, because of that attack on freedom, we see in that poll, it says six out of 10 Americans said the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe makes them more likely to vote this fall.

    That was a huge number that jumped out at me. And then that fits in with what we have seen in other polls, that women are registering to — they're outpacing men in several states, in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, 11 percentage point jump in Ohio, 12 points in Pennsylvania, 15 points in Wisconsin, six in Georgia, seven in North Carolina.

  • Michael Gerson:

    And suburban women, which is going to be a battleground group in a lot of this.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes. That's right.

    And then I don't know if we have time to show this graphic, but when asked which party should control Congress, Democrats holding their own? It's so close. It's — but it's 48 Democrats, 44 Republicans.

    But specifically, Michael, I want to ask you about when you — when people are asked, voters are asked should Donald Trump run again in 2024, 67 percent of Republicans said yes. And when Republicans were asked what if he's charged with a crime, almost that many still think he should run, 61 percent?

  • Michael Gerson:

    Well, I still want to be shocked by that.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Michael Gerson:

    This is a case where Donald Trump has become more radical since he left office on many ways — many ways.

    We have seen from the hearings. There's plenty of evidence out there that he's done illegal things or may have done illegal things. This is proof that the base of the Republican Party is not going to be changed by external factors.

    And the big question that more moderate Republicans have is, are there 3 to 5 percent of Republicans on the margin who will just say, this guy has too much baggage?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Three to 5 percent?

  • Michael Gerson:

    Yes, exactly. That's what people I talk to, they think that could be decisive in a primary or in a general election, if you have a margin, a small margin of disaffected Republicans who may have liked some of the things he did, but find him to have a lot of baggage.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How does that weigh on the other party?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, I think the other party should realize that, whether or not Donald Trump runs for president, whether or not he's the nominee and faces President Biden in 2024, it doesn't matter whether Trump is on the ballot.

    Trumpism is abroad in the land.

  • Michael Gerson:

    Yes.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Those policies are going to be espoused by DeSantis or Governor Abbott or whomever else is the Republican nominee.

    So, I don't think we should be focusing on Donald Trump. We should be focusing on the Republican Party.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Quick coda?

  • Michael Gerson:

    No, I agree that's the threat. And he's not going to go away, if he does go away. But he should go away because of the distinct threat that he presents to American democracy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, entirely too much agreement here tonight.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But it's perfectly all right.

    Jonathan Capehart, Michael Gerson, thank you both.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Thanks, Judy.

  • Michael Gerson:

    Thank you.

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