2018 midterm election is a "referendum on us," political experts say

Many consider today's midterm election a referendum on President Trump, but one Pulitzer Prize-winning historian says otherwise. "I think it's a collective mirror on us, who we vote as our leaders, where we are going as a country, what are our values," Doris Kearns Goodwin said Tuesday on "CBS This Morning."

CBS News contributor and former "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer agreed.

"President Trump has made this, he wants it to be, a referendum on him. I mean, he thinks most things are a referendum on him. But that is beside the point," Schieffer said. "I think it's a referendum on us."

Schieffer, who is covering his 25th election, quoted Franklin D. Roosevelt, who said, "A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough."

"I think that's something that may be pivotal in how people vote," Schieffer said.

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Bob Schieffer and Doris Kearns Goodwin

CBS News

Kearns Goodwin, whose most recent book is called "Leadership: In Turbulent Times," (published by Simon and Schuster, a division of CBS), said she is encouraged by the number of women running for office for the first time.

"Just at a time when politics seems like a dishonorable profession, only 11 percent of the people support the Congress, these people want to the come in into it, which is so exciting. And they're bringing something different, I think, from the Year of the Woman before, which may not have worked before," Kearns Goodwin said. "You've got an infrastructure and you've got a feeling that somehow they're outsiders coming in to change the system. Our system needs a revolution."

While Kearns Goodwin cited research that showed "women tend to cooperate more," she also pointed to their broader, collective experiences.

"I think most importantly, they're coming from being doctors, they're coming from being lawyers, they're coming from being veterans, they're coming from being teachers and pilots," she said. "So you bring a fresh group of idealistic people who still believe in government. We haven't even believed in government in a long time, right? If they're coming in and believing in it and they can create a contagion among other people, wow! This is where my hope goes."

Schieffer reminded viewers this election is "all going to be about turnout."

"Does Trump get out those people that elected him president? Will that be enough to give these Republicans a boost, or will that have a counter-reaction? You know, I think he's going to energize Republicans. But I think hearing these things day after day, I think he's also going to energize Democrats," he said.

Kearns Goodwin said midterm turnout usually is motivated by discontent.

"My favorite one is in 1942, despite the economy coming back, it's the war, full employment, but coffee was rationed three days before the election. Only one cup a day. That was it," she said. "So that may mean – why it is that Trump is talking about discontent? Creating discontent with a caravan to bring his people to the polls. Also he says it's just not exciting to talk about the economy. Which is incredible – the economy is what people's lives are like."  

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