The midterm elections may be over, but a new two-year period of increased uncertainty has just begun, according to a panel discussion this morning in Seattle led by APCO Worldwide founder and executive chairman, Margery Kraus, with former Democratic National Committee CEO, Jess O’Connell and BCI chairman & 2016 Republican candidate for Governor of Washington, Bill Bryant.  

“The midterms have delivered us to a place where we must hold two contradictory facts in our head, and know both to be true,” said Bryant. “This was an unusual midterm, and this was a normal midterm; it was a historic midterm for the Democrats and this was a historic midterm for the Republicans.” 

O’Connell claimed victory for the Democrats, stating, “The House was the most important thing the Democrats needed to accomplish. We did that, and we did it decisively.” She also pointed to gains by women and younger candidates as landmark successes by Democrats. 

With Democrats taking the House and several high-profile gubernatorial races, and President Trump keeping the Senate and securing key electoral governorships, both panelists agreed that the ability of businesses and other groups to move their agendas forward in Washington has been further complicated.

“We have to think about the challenges we’re facing in a new way,” said O’Connell. “This is about politics, not policy.” Bryant agreed, stating, “The challenge for business in this environment is understanding the politics. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got the facts, you need to promote your policy within a top-down, politics driven decision making process.” 

Bryant also identified massive changes in communications and technology as complicating factors to organizations having their message heard. “You have to get your message out in a matter of seconds,” said Bryant. “We can whine about it, but that’s the arena we’re playing in.”

Both panelists pointed to massive political shifts in the American electorate as a major reason for increased uncertainty in the political system. “This is one of the most partisan and tribal times in our history,” said Bryant. “But it’s also a time when membership in parties is in flux, when partisanship is up for grabs; parties are realigning.”

Looking ahead, the panelists said that solutions for businesses and organizations may not be inside Washington, D.C., but in states and cities. “I’m not sure, at a federal level, how much we can get done,” said O’Connell. “It’s why people are looking to states and municipalities to get things done.” 

Kraus added advice for business leaders in the region, stating, “We live in a time of great need for business leaders to understand not only what happens inside their organizations, but in the outside world,” adding, “Leaders simply cannot ignore what happens in Washington, D.C. anymore. That understanding is key to their agility.” 

The panelists all ended on a positive note, stating that the increase in people participating in the political process from both sides of the political spectrum provides hope. “We saw that once again, our democratic system works,” said Bryant. 

Tim Smith
Tim Smith

Tim Smith, a corporate communications and public affairs expert, is managing director of APCO Worldwide’s Seattle office and leads the firm’s growing West Coast presence. Read More

Kelly Gehringer
Kelly Gehringer

Kelly Gehringer, a seasoned communications professional with cross-industry public relations experience, is a senior consultant based in APCO Worldwide's Seattle office. Read More