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NPR's Cokie Roberts Reflects on Civility and Looks Ahead to Midterms

Thomas Langdon
University of Iowa
Cokie Roberts answers audience questions as part of the 2018 Levitt Lecture

NPR's Cokie Roberts says instead of draining the "swamp," as politicians describe our nation's capitol, more members of Congress should bring their families when they come to serve. Roberts grew up in Washington D.C., the daughter of democratic Representative Hale Boggs, who served in the U.S. House for 28 years, and Representative Lindy Boggs, who held her husband's seat for 18 years after his death.

Roberts says when members of Congress spent time together outside the capitol, they built friendships that made it easier to compromise. She says wives became friends and children went to school together. One of Roberts' best childhood friends was the daughter of conservative republican Rep. William E. Miller from New York.

"It's very difficult to demonize someone when their child is playing Clue in your basement," says Roberts.

Roberts, who is also an author and commentator for ABC News, delivered the 2018 Levitt Lecture September 12th at the University of Iowa. The event was presented by Hancher Auditorium, and UI College of Law and the UI Lecture Committee. During this hour of River to River, we listen to that lecture as well as questions from the audience, moderated by host Ben Kieffer.

Roberts also discussed the coming midterm elections, pointing out that the Democratic party has nominated a record 180 women to run for a seat in the U.S. House this fall. She says that novelty makes it difficult to predict whether candidates nominated by their political bases during the primary season will fare well with general election voters in November, but that we can look at patterns.

Data shows that suburban women generally like to vote for female candidates and aren't big fans of the President. A recent Marist poll shows Trump's approval rating at 34% among suburban voters, with only 28% approval among suburban women. Even so, Roberts says she's skeptical about a blue wave when most congressional districts are drawn to heavily favor one party over another, and voter suppression efforts are taking hold in many states.


Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Katherine Perkins is IPR's Program Director for News and Talk