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Here’s what voters are saying about 2020 election integrity

The Mueller report continues to make headlines in Washington, as some Democrats talk impeachment and battle the Trump administration over additional investigations and subpoenas, but how prominent is the subject among voters outside D.C.? Judy Woodruff talks to Chris Buskirk of American Greatness and Kent State University’s Connie Schultz about reactions to the report and election security fears.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    With much of the nation's capital city still reacting to the Mueller report, we take a look now to see how the findings are resonating with voters outside of Washington.

    I'm joined by Chris Buskirk from Phoenix. He's the editor of the conservative journal and Web site American Greatness. And Connie Schultz, she is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and journalism professor at Kent State University in Ohio.

    We say hello, and welcome back to both of you.

    So, Connie, I want to start with you.

    What are you hearing from people in reaction to the Mueller report and the fact that Congress is plowing ahead with investigating some of what's in there?

  • Connie Schultz:

    Well, I really split the response into two categories.

    You have got student — journalism students very engaged, fellow faculty members, lots of activists weighing in, and then you have everybody else, who is more worried about what this means for the fairness of elections in 2020.

    And I'm seeing an increased anxiety about that, particularly in communities where we live. We're in the city of Cleveland. We're in a minority race in our community. And they have already had so many reasons to be concerned about whether their vote is going to count. This is alarming to them.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So the facts of the Mueller report, or the details that came out, you're saying isn't generating as much conversation?

  • Connie Schultz:

    I would say, with regular citizens who aren't following politics daily and with the same intensity that journalists and faculty and students are, yes, I would say that they are more — they have always been more focused, from the conversations I have been saying — this is including a lot of people in labor — about what's going to happen with the actual elections because of the Russian interference, Russia's interference with the campaign, elections last year — or in 2016 — excuse me.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Chris Buskirk, what about you? What are you hearing from real people about all this?

  • Chris Buskirk:

    Yes, the reactions sort of fall into a couple of different categories.

    One is sort of, well, OK, so we spent two years talking about was there collusion between President Trump and/or his campaign and agents of the Russian government? And I think for people who, again, aren't deeply invested in this, it was sort of a binary question, yes or no.

    And the Mueller report basically answered that no. I know a lot of people say, yes, but there's all this other stuff in the Mueller report that looks pretty bad for the president and particularly for people who don't take a favorable view of him in the first place.

    For your average sort of man on the street, it's like, well, OK, we answered the big question. And, by the way, that was last week's news, and now what are we talking about — what are we talking about this week?

    The second sort of category, which I find in a way more interesting, is there is — and, granted, this is from people who are sort of right of center — say, you know, this — there may be an irony here, which is that, having spent two years on this subject and so much sort of political and cultural capital invested in it, that this may actually hand the president a weapon to — for the 2020 campaign, where he says, see, I told you it was fake news, there was no collusion, and I was proven right by Robert Mueller and a team of mostly Democratic prosecutors.

    And so that has some interesting political implications.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Connie, are you hearing any of that sort of political thinking ahead from folks you talk to?

  • Connie Schultz:

    I understand it's self-selective to some extent between the two of us. Different people talk to us, I suppose.

    But I'm a columnist, so I hear from everybody. I hear a lot of anger about the president's reaction. You would want the president to step up and immediately talk about what he is going to do to make sure elections are safe and fair. None of that is happening.

    He tweeted or retweeted 50 times in a 24-hour period recently, and that's pretty discouraging to even consider. And people want a president who is going to be responsive to their concerns. He is doing everything he can now to fight a congressional investigation.

    This is not infusing the American public with confidence. I have never seen people with just so much distress in their voices over the state of the country, regardless of their political leanings. And that, in particular, is pretty troubling.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Chris Buskirk, something Connie mentioned a minute ago was people raising concern about Russian interference in the 2020 election.

    We just had two guests come on and talk about what's going on in that regard, what their concerns are. Do you hear people bring that up?

  • Chris Buskirk:

    Not really. It's not that — it's not that it's so much a nonissue. It's just sort of a — it's not a — I guess not a top-10 issue.

    I think people recognize that the Russians — and, by the way, not only the Russians. The Chinese do the same thing, but there are multiple foreign actors who attempt to influence American elections.

    I think this is one of those questions where people are concerned about it in principle, but it's sort of an amorphous thing, and they're not quite sure what to say or to recommend that politicians do about it.

    What I do hear is that there is insecurity with regards to vote integrity. On the left, people come at it and say, well, there's voter suppression. On the right, people say there's voter fraud.

    And the common theme here is that people are wondering, is the vote itself — does the vote itself have — maintain its integrity? Is it accurate? Is it fair? And that's something that — regardless of which particular issue you think is most important, that's something that I think needs to be addressed, so that people can have confidence in our elections.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just to set one thing straight, I think it's accurate to say that the interference that's been documented, as the Mueller report said, in a sweeping manner was from the Russians, and not have other governments.

    But just quickly, Connie, back to you on the 2020 Democratic field. They haven't obviously settled it out. We're looking at 20-plus people running. Is it taking shape of any sort? We know Joe Biden is supposed to be getting in tomorrow.

  • Connie Schultz:

    Hmm, is it taking shape? Well, it's pretty big and amorphous, as you said.

    And I don't hear too much frustration from — well, let me put it this way. Women and people of color are probably expressing more frustration right now. It's amazing how many white men think they are going to be the miracle worker and should be president.

    That's pretty astonishing, if you're a woman in America watching this, for most of us, and certainly if you're a person of color. But we're going to see what happens. We're going to sort it out.

    I don't believe for a moment that most of the men who are getting in this race really do believe they're going to win. But there's name recognition in running, right? There's — you definitely get a lot more attention if you're running.

    And I don't mean to sound cynical about it, but I have been following politics a long time in this country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Chris, quickly to you, from the other side of the political spectrum, but talking to people, any sense of the Democratic field coming forward for you?

  • Chris Buskirk:

    Yes, you know, I will tell you, I feel like it's a little bit of Groundhog Day.

    I mean, this feels so much like the Republican primary four years ago. You know, there's a lot of people. There's a big field. None of them are that interesting.

    There are a couple of exceptions. Andrew Yang, I find totally fascinating. Pete Buttigieg, I think, is interesting. But it's going to take some time to figure out what it is that Democrat voters want.

    And I think that means just getting to know who's out there and what they really stand for.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we know we're going to be watching. And I have a feeling the two of you are too.

    Chris Buskirk, Connie Schultz, thank you so much.

  • Connie Schultz:

    Sure.

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