Updated: Oct 31, 2020
With the 59th Presidential Election scheduled for next Tuesday, I was eager to get an Americans perspective on what's going on to get an ‘insiders’ perspective on; Donald Trump's presidency, handling of COVID, Joe Biden as well as the most recent appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. In order to do this, I interviewed Allen Lucas Messer (more commonly known as Luke Messer), he represented Indiana's 6th Congressional District in the House of Representatives, from 2013 to 2019. Luke is a member of the Republican Party.
As we come to the end of Trump's presidency, I was eager to find out if there was anything Luke would have liked to see Trump do differently. Luke told me “the president has had his fair share of accomplishments, he's faced challenges. In the upcoming election, his biggest challenge is his style. For the upcoming election, most Americans across the country want to see an economy which is open, in the face of this medical crisis. No one had a good answer.”
Luke also briefly informed me that despite Trump still having a strong support base, the one group of voters that everyone should keep an eye on during the vote is College Educated Republicans who have managed to do well in the modern economy. The reason being is that they agree with Trump's policies more so than Biden, however their struggle with Trump is the way he conducts himself, Luke gave me the example of Trump picking fights with American allies, which I personally think is a fair comment because we have never lived through anything like it, and I for one am still surprised to this day that he won in 2016.
As someone who studied American Politics in 2016 for my A Levels, I personally did not have high expectations of Trump being President (after all, he is a reality TV star and extremely controversial), by going off this, I asked Luke if Trump had exceeded his expectations of being President, to which he warned me that if I was after a super pro-Trump response, he was not the person to go to, however it is important to give Trump his dues because he has done pretty well in foreign policy. Luke highlighted that “as many as 5 Arab Nations may now be brokering a peace treaty with Israel and people want to say Trump had nothing to do with that” and on the topic of North Korea “before Trump - South Korea wasn't speaking to North Korea, nor was anyone else in the Western/ Modern democratic World. There is now a dialogue. Its an administration that's had many victories.”
On a domestic front, and with a quick focus on Luke's district in the state of Indiana, he is certain that “Trump will win by a large margin.” Additionally, because of Trump the United States now has a Conservative Supreme Court - of course whether this is a good thing or not depends on where you fall on the political spectrum. As for the election next week, Luke told me that the “biggest question is whether the nation has become exhausted with his style. And if he loses, it will be because of that.” Additionally, Luke raised the point of how leaders both in America and around the rest of the world typically rally a strong level of support during a crisis, yet in the case of Trump he hasn't quite managed it (currently polling at 43% approval rating) “because of the way he's talked about issues and that is one of the things that's come out of debates.” Going off what Luke has said, perhaps Americans don't want another 4 years of Trump's style? But only time will tell.
“Our nation has a strong history of rallying to our leader in a moment in crisis”
The interview then turned to discussing Joe Biden and his campaign to be President as there has been a lot of speculation and conversation as to whether he is fit to run for office, as to many it would seem his time had passed. Luke enlightened me that this exact concern is “the dilemma of his campaign. Many Americans question whether he is up to the job. In many ways, this election will determine where folks came down on it.” We discussed the presidential debates and Luke praised Biden because, despite concern over whether he is fit to run or not, Biden has “for the most part, he has held his own in debates.” One of the reasons Luke gave for praising Biden came down to the fact that “Trump missed an opportunity in the first debate by being so over the top, he gave Biden a pass, because Biden didn't have to stand there and give coherent answers.” Maybe, this is something Biden can really cash in on (Trump's style being a concern) as it is something that Luke had bought up several times over the course of the interview.
Continuing the conversation on Joe Biden, Luke briefly mentioned how “the Democratic Party of today is a lot more left wing today [in comparison to] the beginning of the Obama years.” Of course, this shift towards more left wing policies by political parties on the left of the political spectrum is something that we are all too familiar with right here in the UK, following the rise of Momentum in the Labour Party. Rightly so, Luke questioned if “Biden wins, who gets to govern? The centrists or what they call ‘progressives’. His policies look like they’ve been written by the progressives.” It will certainly be interesting to ‘watch from across the pond.’
Having discussed both candidates, the attention of the interview turned to the handling of the COVID19 pandemic, and I wanted to know the Luke's thoughts on whether or not Trump reacted too late. As Luke rightly pointed out, it was and continues to be an “unprecedented health crisis. No one has had it easy” however, “it’s easy to be a Monday morning quarter-back.” I had never heard this phrase before (and I was incredibly confused) so Luke explained to me that it means “it's easy to watch the game being played on Sunday then on Monday say what you would have done differently.” I think this was a fair comment to make.
Luke did however indicate that one thing Trump could have done earlier was have both Anthony Fauci (an American physician and immunologist who has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) and Larry Kudlow (Director of the United States National Economic Council) in the earlier COVID briefings, instead of just Fauci. One of the reasons for this is partisan mindsets have set in and it is rather damaging, as there are debates from people who do and don't want to wear masks, people who think the country should be completely shut down and those who don't think the country should be shut down. No matter what happens from now on, Luke addressed the fact that as a country they need to “work through the difficult policy choices and we need to look out for the health and safety of every American.”
“Partisan mindsets had been set, are you going to wear a mask or not?”
Like most people, Luke is concerned about the impact COVID19 has had on the economy and the knock on effects of both unemployment rates and the high numbers of people who are not getting the appropriate treatment because hospitals are shut or not providing the relevant treatment. The effects following COVID are going to be absolutely detrimental and how to move forward over the next few months is again, incredibly partisan. More so for the fact that there isn't really a proper conversation. Luke highlighted this by saying “a lot of folks on the left like to talk about ‘science!’ but there are things we know as a matter of science for example, if you’re over 70 it's not good for you. If you’re under 50 however this plays out like something that resembles the flu.” A contradiction one can find in both America and right here in the UK, is wanting to have a conversation using science “you’re somehow a barbarian” so this leads to a big question, that a lot of people are asking “where are the limits?”
For the American people the answer to this question is not clear to them because as Luke pointed out to me, the dialogue in the second debate both Presidential candidates have polar opposite views. On the one hand “Trump is saying we can't shut down America” in which he is right to say, because once America shuts down - so does the rest of the world and this is perfectly described by a phrase I remember from GCSE history ‘When America Sneezes, the World Catches Cold.’ On the other side of the conversation was “Biden saying ‘we aren't learning to live with it, we’re dying with it.’”
Perhaps the winner of the election next week will be entirely determined upon how the country wants to move out of the COVID pandemic.
“A lot of everyday people are asking where the limits are”
Amy Coney Barrett
As we came to the end of the interview, the focus turned towards Luke's opinion on the nomination and appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. My own view is that the seat of Ruth Badger Ginsburg should not have been filled until after the Presidential election. But as we are right at the start of her time as an Associate Justice, I was curious to find out Luke's opinion on whether she’ll have a positive or negative impact, to which he said “she's going to be a great addition” and “she is high-quality.” A few key issues which Luke pointed out to me where Amy could leave a mark comes down to her views on “the boundaries of government and the individual states rights, that is where she could make a big difference. For many social issues that get the average voter wound up, I don't think it will make a big difference. Some question as to whether she would overturn Roe V Wade, she supports a court majority that allows some restrictions. Americans will be surprised if it is overturned.” He did inform me that “it will be interesting to see if she swings the balance - that's the media portrayal here”- and it is from the media portrayal that led me to ask the question to get a different view, a view to balance out perceptions.
Luke also reminded me that “Supreme Court Justices do change the way they vote. Justices that were relatively conservative do turn liberal” and an example he gave me was “Earl Warren. In the 1960s that was the most liberal court. He (Warren) was a former Republican politician himself.” A more recent example Luke gave me was over the past year the current “‘conservative’ court, voted to change title 7 - to say that sex included transgender protection,” which is something you wouldn't expect from a conservative majority. From this point, no matter what happens next week in the presidential election, it will be interesting to keep an eye on the Supreme Court and decisions that come out of there.
“She is very high-quality”
The future for Luke
My final question to Luke was if he would consider standing for election again (he represented Indiana's 6th Congressional District from 2013 to 2019). He told me that it’s unlikely he would and he can see his future in administration. The reason being the “political landscape has changed, unless you’re famous or widely rich.” Luke explained to me that the last time he ran, he lost to “someone who had spent $17 million of their own money on the race. $7 million was just on the primary and Indiana is a small state, it's not like New York or Massachusetts.” I was very surprised, $17 million! However Luke’s rationalization for this was the fact we’re living in a “post Trump World and 2 years ago, I thought the Democrat nominee would be Tom Hanks. You have to be a unique personality to endure the beatings Trump got.” Whilst one may not like Trump, you do have to applaud him for how well he has handled the negativity surrounding him and the occasional remarks about his family.
“In a post Trump world”
As for the spending on US Elections (because Luke could see I was incredibly surprised at how high the figure was) he told me that the figure can get incredibly high because there just is no one to say otherwise. The US Supreme Court has “ruled that you can limit how much money a wealthy person can give another candidate. But you cannot limit how much an individual spends on their own campaign. That would essentially be unconstitutional and a violation of the First Amendment” because it is the individual's choice to run for office, it is up to them how much is spent.
I first met Luke Messer during my Final Year of my undergraduate degree at De Montfort University during the annual Congress to Campus.
Interview took place on Wednesday 28th October 2020