Gettysburg Democracy for America (DFA) co-chair Leon Reed moderated a panel discussion that included Adams County commissioner Marty Qually and Gettysburg College professor Char Weise on Thursday evening at the Adams Gettysburg YWCA.
The forum evaluated the results of the 2022 election and its likely impact on the county, state, and country.
Reed said the biggest surprise for him was that Democrats might retake control of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. “If this happens,” said Reed, “it will be due in no small part to the efforts of people from Fair Districts PA, Draw the Lines, and other groups who advocated for fair district boundaries.”
Reed also noted that U.S. Representative for the 10th Congressional District Scott Perry won with only 54% of the vote. Reed said Perry is in a district where he might be vulnerable to the right Democratic opponent.
Qually noted that at both the national and state level, government will be divided, “doubling the emphasis on working in a bipartisan way.” He also observed that if the Democrats do seize control of the State House of Representatives, “all those constitutional amendments on abortion, voter ID, and the voting age are dead; they might be even if we fall short by a seat or two because there might be a handful of Republicans who recognize what bad laws they are.”
Qually also discussed the need for the Democratic party to recruit strong slates of candidates for local office. “People sometimes are reluctant to run because they don’t have an organization, don’t know how to file, etc. We need to help them get organized, show them how to fill out petitions, help with their message.”
Weise addressed the role of economic factors on the election and going forward. “In exit polls, inflation and abortion were leaps and bounds ahead of every other concern. Inflation unsettles people. It has an impact far disproportionate to its real economic cost,” he said.
Weise noted that consumer confidence is at its lowest level since the depths of the great recession. That was a time when the world economy was shutting down, the housing market was on the verge of collapse, and unemployment was heading toward 10%. “And people think today’s economy is that bad,” he said.
But Weise suggested that inflation would likely not be as big of an issue in 2024. “The numbers suggest inflation is already on its way down,” he said. “When you hear 8%, those are 12 month averages; over the past 3 months, the rate is 3.85%.”
Weise noted that the biggest effect on inflation comes from rent. “Rent is a real driver of the official inflation rate.” He suggested that two prime focuses to reduce inflation should be affordable housing and comprehensive immigration reform.
Weise said the Biden administration should focus on the programs it passed already and not pursue large new ones. Weise said the likely- divided Congress would have a benefit for the Biden administration because it won’t be under pressure from the progressives about Build Back Better.
Write-in congressional candidate Beth Farnham dropped by and gave a short debrief on her experiences on the trail and her observations about the sprawling 13th district. She made the comment that Rep. Joyce is relatively quiet and doesn’t get a lot of attention, but that his views on issues are as backward as the more obvious insurrectionist members. She observed that the Democratic groups in thee district are isolated but are well organized within their areas.
Farnham also commented on the difficulty of challenging the misinformation rural voters receive from Fox News. She related a story about a Mastriano supporter she met while they were both placing signs. “We had a very nice conversation and she was very friendly. But when I asked her about issues she said her number one concern was furbies and litter boxes in classrooms.”
Gettysburg DFA will be holding regular meetups at the YWCA. The December meeting will be a potluck gathering and future meetings will deal with topics such as the Gettysburg Black History Museum, organizing in the 13th District, the impact of an aging population in Adams County, and the youth vote in the 2020s.