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Saturday May 28th

Former political science professor discusses midterm results

Supporters of newly elected NC Supreme Court Associate Justice Anita Earls anticipate her arrival at the election night party for the Democratic party on Tuesday, Nov. 6 at the Democratic Headquarters in Raleigh.
Buy Photos Supporters of newly elected NC Supreme Court Associate Justice Anita Earls anticipate her arrival at the election night party for the Democratic party on Tuesday, Nov. 6 at the Democratic Headquarters in Raleigh.

This year, James Stimson, a Raymond Dawson Distinguished Bicentennial professor of Political Science, retired after 21 years with the UNC Department of Political Science. However, he continues to pursue his passion of politics by researching the 2018 midterm election and giving election talks at Colorado College. Stimson sat down with staff writer Lindsey Banks to discuss Tuesday's results.

The Daily Tar Heel: What is a “Blue Wave,” and did you see one in the 2018 midterm election?

James Stimson: If someone asks me what is the definition (of a Blue Wave), my answer is that there is none. It is not a term that any scholarly enterprise such as political science uses. It’s from popular commentary, so I do not know what the definition of it is. It really has none in the eyes of the beholder.

DTH: Do you think President Donald Trump affected the election results, and to what extent?

Stimson: I believe he had an effect. He deliberately personalized the election by saying over and over again, "If you vote for ‘John Doe’ for Congress or Senate, you are voting for me." Presidents always intrude into congressional elections, but I don’t believe that any president has intruded as much as Donald Trump did. He wanted a referendum on Trump and he got it. 

DTH: How do you think politics have changed since the last election?

Stimson: That’s a blockbuster. What’s changed is when Americans voted for Donald Trump, the 46 percent who did, they did not have a very good idea what they were going to get. And now they know, after two years. 

DTH: What do you think about the turnout of voters among college students?

Stimson: I have an impression that the numbers were up in 2018. Normal turnout of college-aged people is atrocious, abominable, disgusting. My conclusion is better than disgusting. We always overestimate the influence that generation has on politics. Mostly they just choose not to vote and so don’t have much influence.

DTH: How do your research findings apply to this election?

Stimson: There are a couple dozen of them that have some application. The one that comes to mind most readily is that with my colleagues I’m known for the thermostatic idea that mainly public opinion is a reaction to what’s happened recently. It is nearly always a negative reaction, so that would have predicted a ‘Blue Wave’ in response to Donald Trump. That is particularly what the House election looks like.

DTH: In the House elections, the winner of District Four was Democrat David Price. With his election, how will things change in the Chapel Hill community? 

Stimson: He had 72 percent of the votes. These three districts that the Republican legislature set up were designed to be won by a Democrat in perpetuity. They pushed all the Democrats into three districts, so David Price would have to make a considerable effort to lose. 

DTH: Under Price’s leadership, will people see an impact?

Stimson: No.

DTH: What are the important issues moving forward now that midterms are over?

Stimson: I think there is only one important issue and that is Trump and Russia and also, of course, Mueller. Nobody knows how that’s going to turn out, but I think that everybody reasonably forecasts the constitutional crisis. 

DTH: How did your election talks go in Colorado Springs?

Stimson: It went really well because the audience was ready for what I had to say. I gave them very much a political science account of it, which is very different from election night coverage.

@LindzBanks

university@dailytarheel.com

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