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Strong Turnout Helped Democrats Take Control Of The House


Well, let's hear Nancy Pelosi, the once and presumably future speaker of the House, who had a chance to say what the House election means.


NANCY PELOSI: It's about restoring the Constitution's checks and balances to the Trump administration.


PELOSI: It's about stopping the GOP and Mitch McConnell's assaults on Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act and the health care of 130 million Americans living with pre-existing medical conditions.

INSKEEP: As you can hear, Democrats are pledging to protect progressive policies, but they won the House in part through the victories of more moderate candidates in places like Kansas and even Oklahoma, conservative states. They won everywhere with big turnout. Karine Jean-Pierre of the progressive advocacy group Move On is going to offer a perspective on this. She's in our studios. Thanks for coming by.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks for having me, Steve.

INSKEEP: What drove the immensely high vote totals?

JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, we have to remember that this was a midterm election where Democrats don't normally come out. They normally - presidential years usually they're here. And so I think what has happened was that there were good candidates across the country. You have a lot of firsts - right? - you have candidates that represented their community. We're about to - we're bringing in a first Native American, a first Muslim-American woman. We have 40 diverse women coming into Congress - we were at a number 38. And so I think that matters - authentic candidates, candidates that represented their community. And also there was the underlying, you know, we want to put a check and balance on Donald Trump that really also drove up the turnout.

INSKEEP: Is it fair to say that there is a diversity of policy views, as well as a diversity of people? You have more progressive people...

JEAN-PIERRE: Absolutely.

INSKEEP: ...You have socialists who won, but you also have more modern incentives.

JEAN-PIERRE: I think there was a thread in everyone, regardless if you are a moderate or a progressive, which are the issues. Health care was a key - a No. 1 issue that we kept on seeing in polling time after time, which also was connected to protecting Medicaid, protecting Medicare, protecting Social Security, and it didn't matter if you were a Republican, independent or Democrat, actually. Those are very, very important issues to voters, and those are the things that Democrats talked about across the board.

INSKEEP: OK. So on one level, that protection is already done. Because Democrats have the House, they can stop anything the Senate might pass. They can stop many things, anyway, the president might do, although he has a lot of leeway as an executive to act against Obamacare, for example. But is that going to be enough for this coalition that was assembled that won the House? What are you expecting Democrats to do over the next two years?

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I'm expecting Democrats to walk and chew gum in the House. In particular, they should know properly - make sure they're in - a check and balance on this administration. They should offer proactive legislation that shows they have a future for the country. And they need to protect Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security. There's family separation that we need to be dealing with. So there are a lot of things that I think Democrats can do while they're still making sure that we don't have a runaway train in the Trump administration.

INSKEEP: Very briefly, voters often say I want everybody to come together, I want them to work together, but do Democratic voters actually want this Congress to work with this president?

JEAN-PIERRE: So - and that's a really good question, Steve. The No. 1 reason, or I guess the underlying reason that a lot of people came out was that check and balance to stop what Trump - the bad policies that Donald Trump was doing. But at the same time, it has to come from the administration as well. When George W. Bush lost in 2006, he reached out to the other side. When Barack Obama, same thing happened in 2010, he reached out to the other side. So it has to be on Donald Trump as well.

INSKEEP: Karine Jean-Pierre of Move On, thanks for coming by, really appreciate it.

JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you, Steve, appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.