Hi everyone! I’m PBS NewsHour congressional correspondent (and elections nerd) Lisa Desjardins. I spent the last eight months following almost 100 races. You may have seen me breaking down how they turned out during our election special on Tuesday night. I also reported on Conor Lamb’s special election victory in March, which set off full-blown Democratic hopes for a wave election, and, later, Virginia Republican Senate candidate Corey Stewart’s views on white nationalists. We learned a lot on Tuesday night, and I am here to take your questions about what it all means for Congress, our lives and the next presidential election.

Proof: https://twitter.com/NewsHour/status/1060554809147822080

UPDATE 11:35 a.m. Eastern:

THANK YOU for all of your great questions, I'm sorry that I can't keep answering. Please follow me on Twitter at @LisaDNews (I do read and respond when at all possible).

And please consider learning more about Chester Arthur. He was a good president and so underappreciated.

Follow our work here: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/ and u/NewsHour!

Comments: 566 • Responses: 33  • Date: 

TunaCatz476 karma

I have a somewhat turbulent question.

What is your opinion on journalists calling blatantly false claims "falsehoods" instead of lies? Do you think it undermines the maliciousness of some politicians by being too charitable towards them? Is it a problem for journalists trying to strike that balance between being honest, objective, and non-partisan? Curious what you think.


NewsHour430 karma

I have only read the first line and I like it. I am up for answering turbulent questions. *Reads on*

NewsHour349 karma

I think there is a wide range of thought on this and there should be. I will tell you my thoughts, I promise, but one of them is that I am glad there is diversity of opinion and approach on this.

NewsHour400 karma

My thinking is that journalists need to hold politicians accountable and ask them the toughest questions needed. I also think (and I say this to sources) that we should always be ready to - this is a Ron Fournier idea - stab the people we cover from the front, meaning we need to be ready to call a spade a spade, to do tough stories on people we work with and may like. (And those we don't.)

NewsHour571 karma

But to call someone a "liar" has a definitional bar. It does imply motive. We MUST call out things that are wrong, false, misleading, dangerous (like threats). And we should call out lies. But there is a high bar there. I do not think it is good to use that word casually, as journalists. That is something politicians do, b/c they do not need to stick to facts or accurate context. But we must work within those constraints to be responsible.

hawkeepuck26283 karma

Hi Lisa! I really appreciate all the work you do when things “hit the fan” on the hill- I was one of the many people refreshing your twitter feed for healthcare debates, confirmation hearings, and countless other breaking-news events since the 2016 cycle.

One of the reasons I started following PBS as a news outlet more closely is the ability of you and your colleagues to remain level-headed and practical when wild news is unfolding, particularly while reporting during live events.

How difficult is it to remain pragmatic in your live coverage tweeting/reporting/analyzing? Do you find yourself caught up in the moment? How has the current political attitude towards reporters in general affected the way you handle live reporting and questioning?

Thank you for everything you’ve been doing!

NewsHour348 karma

What a great post. First, THANK YOU for everything you said. I mean this sincerely though it may sound a bit Hallmark: You are part of the answer to your own question. Words like this keep us going.

I'm someone who grew up in politics and also a turbulent household, so that has served me very well as a reporter. I can handle conflict, knowing that it does not last always and generally (my opinion) it is better to face the storm than to let it linger and grow. But even for me the past few months have tested me. More than 2016. That was exhausting and mentally challenging b/c so much was new, so much of what then candidate Trump was doing was unpredictable. Me, though, I loved that. (I covered the Trump campaign for us.)

But in the past few months, after looking at racial divide and after the Brett Kavanaugh hearing, I've felt a deeper concern rising in my mind. That we are actually getting *father* apart as a nation. This shook me for a week or so. But then I returned to (again, Hallmark moment, sorry) my utter faith in our Constitution. It is being tested, but it's my job to cover it. And the Constitution is holding up. The question of course is if Americans can do likewise. (Rise of anger, violence is on my mind.)

One last way that I stay pragmatic and balanced. I see both parties as deeply human. So, flawed.

NewsHour231 karma

Good morning guys. We have experienced a tornado of news in the past 36 hours. We are all exhausted but I'm excited to answer any question you have about anything.

bloomsday289198 karma

What's your take on the current state of gerrymandering? Is it as bad as I am hearing?

NewsHour456 karma

It is so bad that it has permeated into a standard procedure. It is the starting point nearly everywhere, not the exception. But this is not new. What is new is the intense passionate divide in the country b/t red and blue that is fueling anger of this practice. Also new: computers helping politicians do this more surgically.

manofmystry113 karma

Hi, Lisa.

Thanks for doing this AMA.

In your opinion, what does the divide between the House and Senate results of the 2018 midterm say about the prospects for the Democratic party in the 2020 presidential election? If presidential results are tabulated at a state-level, then don't Democrats face the same urban-rural divide that was so remarkable in the recent election?

NewsHour148 karma

My opinion is that you should have politics blog! Your observations are smart. The urban rural divide is one of the key themes of Tueday's election and will be a challenge for Dems b/c of the way the electoral college map works and how Trump was able to galvenize rural and near-rural voters.

NewsHour97 karma

THANK YOU for all of your great questions, I'm sorry that I can't keep answering. Please follow me on Twitter at @LisaDNews (I do read and respond when at all possible).

And please consider learning more about Chester Arthur. He was a good president and so underappreciated.

PaulR50477 karma

Why was the idea of "red state Democrat" pushed so hard but not "blue state Republican" in the last two years? Do you think this idea will be more pushed in how Senators act coming up on 2020 especially for Susan Collins and Corey Gardner after watching what happened to Dean Heller?

NewsHour96 karma

Another great question! You too should have a podcast. Good observation. It is precisely because the Senate map had so many (10) Democrats defending seats in Republican areas. Also there are fewer Senate Republicans holding seats in states that voted for Trump. But yes, I think this will be something to talk about in 2020. Exactly.

bmcourt174 karma

Hi Lisa, thanks for doing all the good work.

In light of Trump's constant attacks on the press, and his particularly ruthless attack on Yamiche Alcindor yesterday, is the Newshour team worried about administration attacks on PBS? How do you protect public broadcasting in this day and age?

NewsHour169 karma

We get this question a lot, thank you. My answer to this is that there are people at PBS who (thank you to them) focus on our funding and how to make sure we can continue to do our jobs, but I am not one of them. We get tremendous support from our viewers, both in dollars but also in incredible sentiment. That fuels us. To me, that kind of support has never been larger. Our ratings continue to grow, and in big numbers. (We were the only nightly newscast to grow in viewers after 2016 and we have more viewers when we are on air than CNN.) (Have to brag, sorry, it's not-so-PBS-of-me.)

I feel strongly the best way to protect public broadcasting is to focus on our work. Not get pulled into fights, but instead cover what our leaders are doing, saying and what it means for people around the country.

penguinsandbatman42 karma

There seems to be an ever growing divide between the left and the right. I see the two main parties as becoming more polarized. What can we do as citizens and individuals to allow more options into the spotlight and hopefully bring in centrists and politicians that are actually willing to work with the other side?

NewsHour83 karma

I think the best thing to do is find someone, a lot of someones, from the other point of view and talk with them.

NewsHour71 karma

And encourage, demand our leaders do the same.

Tsukikage1239 karma

Hello Ms. Desjardins! I watch the NewsHour religiously and want to thank you and your colleagues for all your work. In light of Democrats gaining control of the House and the president's subsequent actions, namely the forced resignation and replacement of AG Sessions, how likely is it that the Russia Probe/ Mueller Investigation will reach its own conclusion versus an involuntary end? or in other words, how much power does the House have to rebuff attempts to interfere with the investigation?

NewsHour57 karma

I think we will spend every day until the Mueller probe ends wondering about this question. Right now we have no way to know. The greatest reason to think it will conclude as Mueller would like is the US Senate. Republican senators have made it clear that any attempt to derail the probe could spark a quick reaction and legislation. And, I should no longer be surprised that I have to say this - and yet I am, a possible Constitutional crisis.

frogstein6 karma

And to add to that, if Trump ends up firing Mueller, what do you think will happen?

NewsHour17 karma

Google Constitutional crisis. (And see above.)

Ajax21035 karma

Do you think the swing in the suburbs is only a reaction to President Trump or represents a more long term realignment?

NewsHour61 karma

I think there is much more to it, that Trump was a reaction to deeper divides and sentiments. Those are especially urban/rural and also divides along racial lines. This is one reason the suburbs have become so key. That is where those divided voter groups meet and are neighbors. And it is where populations are growing.

InfiniteJestV28 karma

Hi Lisa! Thanks for doing this AMA!

In your opinion, what's the most impactful way that we can get in touch with our congressional reps over the issues we care about? I'm always concerned that my calls and letters are ignored. Does posting on social media hold representatives to a higher account because of their public visibility?

Thanks again!

NewsHour41 karma

Great question.

It depends on who your rep is. I know MANY offices do keep counts of phone calls on big issues. So if you call, express your opinion and know that you do not gain a lot by speaking for a long period of time to the staffer.

Personally, I think if your rep. or senator is on Twitter or FB - and seems to personally look at it - that is the best way to voice opinion.

RedPandaZak26 karma

As an Englishman who is interested in how things are going across the pond: What's an easy way to explain the differences in powers between the House and the Senate? Is there a consequence of one party not holding both? Does one have authority over the other?

In context of the election just passed, does the Democrats now holding the House have significant influence in frustrating the legislative plans of the Republicans and the president?

NewsHour47 karma

I love this. Try this with your British friends. (I potentially will abuse a cliche and look to British football.)

The Senate and House are technically equal on paper. Perhaps like, say, Manchester United and (my team) West Ham. Both have equal chance at passing laws. And I'd argue both are needed.

But one chamber (the Senate/Manchester United) sees itself as more important, and indeed does get higher salaries, more staff and generally they don't like to associate with the other chamber. One legitimate aspect to that is that Senate rules make it harder to get legislation through that chamber. AND each senator has the power to stall legislation. So if (now in America!!) Wayne Rooney, in his prime, wanted to stop a game b/c he didn't like the ref. He could.

To make government work though, both chambers must pass a bill.

So they are equal. And unequal.

runthaus19 karma

Good morning, Lisa.

If you will indulge me, I have two questions.

First, what are the most notable demographic changes in voters for both parties? On NPR there was a story about religious people's voting trends and it was noted that Catholic Americans shifted to the left, whereas other major religious groups that tend conservative stayed the course (so to speak). I'm especially curious about whether or not a similar trend was seen among traditionally liberal cohorts during this year's midterms.

Second, what was the most surprising result of the midterms? Was there anything in the outcome of the elections that left you with more questions than answers?

Keep doing your job :)

NewsHour49 karma

  1. Actually demographics aren't changing much. It is the voting rates changing.
  2. Most surprising? I think the exit polls in Georgia contained a lot of surprises. And the Gillum surge was smaller than we thought (or the DeSantis surge was larger). But to me the most surprising is that there were not more surprises.

aloopizza13519 karma

Hi Lisa! Thank you for your excellent work on the NewsHour and on Twitter.

I know you're a big fan of President Chester A. Arthur. What can studying Arthur's presidency teach us about today's political climate?

Thank you!

NewsHour60 karma

I could spend an hour on this, so I will try to be disciplined. Among the many lessons Chester Arthur's presidency could teach us:

  1. Politicians can defy expectation. Someone expected to be the most corrupt president in history can shock everyone and instead be the person signing critical government reform. (Arthur is why we have a meritocracy.) (See Mark Twain's quote and Alexander McClure said of him "No man entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted and no one ever retired ... more generally respected.")
  2. We need more men to go back to wearing mutton chops.

NewsHour32 karma

I am literally shrieking w/ joy at this question. Stand by - I need to look at those lower, but WILL COME BACK to this, I promise. Thank you.

PublicPool16 karma

Why don't more reporters call out the president when he's lied? Are they afraid of being bared from the WH press corps?

NewsHour35 karma

Well, I'm not at the WH but I don't think there is that fear. I think reporters in Washington generally feel strongly that they must ask and say anything they believe is appropriate to what they are covering.

zoomxoomzoom14 karma

As an independent who feels neither major party has gained my trust or vote, did the midterms show any hope of a third party gaining traction in the near future?

NewsHour25 karma

Oh gosh. This has been an issue in America since the beginning. There were some strong third party candidates this cycle - esp. in the Indiana US Senate race and in the Alaska US House race. But neither was able to swing their contests their way.

I don't see any one third party gaining more traction right now. But, generally we don't usually see it coming when there is a rise of third party sentiment. And there is such widespread dissatisfaction with both parties right now that it seems like a good environment, should their be the right candidate.

dantooine197713 karma

What will the President be able to accomplish with only the Senate on his side over the next 2 years?

NewsHour42 karma

Not much. But the bigger issue is the House being Democratic.

Basically, President Trump and Congress will keep government funded. I think.

carmelsown11 karma

Hi Lisa- love your work. In your opinion, what Republican-held Senate seats up in 2020 are most vulnerable that Dems should be focusing on?

Also, could you give us a top three of your most likely Dem presidential candidates in 2020?


NewsHour30 karma

Thanks. Dems feel better, but not great about 2020 than about 2018 in the Senate. Taking a guess now, I'd say Arizona (McCain/Kyl seat), Colorado (Gardner) and Maine (Collins) will be among Dems biggest targets.

For presidential, I think it is going to be hard for a Senator to win in November, but they may have some primary appeal. So I'd like Gillibrand and Harris at the top. But my gut tells me that non-Washington candidates - perhaps including Gillum if he ends up losing in Florida - will be strongest.

DontExpectMuch11 karma

Wikipedia doesn't know which year you were born. Is it '71 or '72?

NewsHour36 karma

I am told women are not supposed to answer questions like this.

NewsHour43 karma

It is 1972.

meowmeowpurrrrrr10 karma

Hi Lisa! I love your work. Also, your live tweets kept me sane during the Kavanaugh hearings. I was wondering how you are able to maintain composure and professionalism in the face of all that's going on? I'm a very visibly emotional person and I am often impressed by your ability (and that of many others on PBS News hour) to articulate what's going on in a way that is balanced and fair, even when what is happening is so messed up.

I guess it's sort of personal, but how do you carry the pain of some of the hateful things people have said, process it, and still report on it so calmly and clearly? It seems it would be a difficult balance.

Thank you, what you do is so important and so brave at a time like this!

NewsHour17 karma

Wow, thank you for that. Those Kavanaugh hearings were so tough. At various points I saw supporters of both Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford sobbing and (not on purpose) made eye contact w/ them. I tried to signal some comfort to both, but of course I felt for them.

Someone else asked a similar question a minute ago - see if this helps answer yours. (I think it will.)


Piano_Fingerbanger9 karma

Lisa! Your reporting from the Hill on PBS is always so informative!

Could you compare and contrast the differences in reporting in 2018 vs pre-2016? How different is it being a journalist?

NewsHour31 karma

Um. Sleep level mainly.

NewsHour56 karma

Beyond that, it is a bit like 2010, but amped up. There is a tremendous amount of anger and not just in groups which are usually engaged. (Politicos and their friends.) The anger is seeping in deep. At the same time 2016 changed the media environment so that cable news also amped up its pace and the amount of segments which seem designed to have two (or more) sharp-tongued people argue in a way that will not be civil by the time the second question is asked. NewsHour does not do that and thank God. But I have had to sort of help guests transition their mindset after they've done cable TV, tell them we really truly want to have a productive conversation and not a fight.

SnugAsARug6 karma

Based on the midterms, have democrats had more success going further left or trying to be more centrist?

NewsHour24 karma

The midterms answer to this is: yes.

goofball_jones3 karma

A tad off topic, but this morning I heard on the NPR newscast about Jim Acosta being ousted from the press pool at the White House. But was heartened to hear Korva Coleman say in the news report that "The White House falsely accused Acosta of assault". So my question is do you think the news organizations should start calling things on what they actually are instead of trying to do a middle-of-the-road thing?

NewsHour32 karma

It's hard to answer this b/c the debate is all about what do *you* think is middle of the road, right? But let me leave that very theoretical path aside for a sec.

Yeah, we absolutely need to call a spade a spade. But it is not as easy as people think.

In regards to Jim Acosta, I should disclose he is a friend and former coworker of mine. So I see him mainly as the kind soul who bought our crew dinner when we were exhausted in Arizona. But, I know this time is testing him and all of us.

As I tweeted today, I do not think the video supports the WH version of events. Was Jim rude or out of line? That is debatable. But to your question, I was among those who said definitively that the WH version is out of line with reality.

LessOffensiveName-2 karma

Why does the left tend to make terrible memes?

NewsHour28 karma

I'm not sure I understand the question. It does lead to a rhetorical: is anyone good at memes? Are memes good at memes?