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Political science chair examines possible repercussions of midterm elections

| Monday, November 5, 2018

Editor’s note: Throughout the 2018 midterm election season, The Observer will sit down with various student organizations and professors to discuss political engagement and issues particularly pertinent to students. In this seventh installment, the chair of the political science department discusses potential local impacts of midterm elections.

Millions of Americans will head to the polls to elect members of Congress, governors and numerous other state and local officials on Tuesday. While the implications of this vote will affect the entire nation, they will have some key impacts on college students and Notre Dame, Political Science department chair David Campbell said.

Campbell said he believes the elections will result in a series of important changes in the nation’s politics, predicting the Democratic Party will retake the majority in the House of Representatives.

“The short-term answer is I think the [so-called] ‘Blue Wave’ is real,” Campbell said. “Now whether that’s enough for the Democrats to take the Senate is unlikely. It does seem pretty likely they will take the House, and if they don’t it’s going to rest on a few quirky districts. So, we’re likely to see a surge of Democrats heading to Washington. That’s the short-term effect and would not be surprising — midterm elections usually lead to a loss of seats for the president’s party.”

However, Campbell said the election is indicative of an increase in political interest amongst young Americans. This effect, he believes, is more significant for the long-term.

“But I think there’s actually something more significant happening, which will matter for the long-term — we are seeing a surge of political interest and activity among Democrats that we’ve not seen in a very long time,“ Campbell said. “Especially among young people, we’re seeing an increased level of political engagement. Which suggests we have a generation now being forged, if you will, that will carry that level of political interest with them for the rest of their life. Because if you get infected when you’re young, the infection usually stays with you.”

Despite this uptick in activism among young Americans, Campbell believes Notre Dame is a “rather apathetic” school when it comes to politics.

“I have to admit, even though nationwide we know there is a lot of attention being paid to this election, I wouldn’t say that it seems much different than past midterms on campus,” he said. “We’re a pretty politically quiet campus, and that has held up this year.”

If his prediction of a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives turns out to be accurate, Campbell said there will be key changes in how American politics operate. For example, he referenced the constitutional prerogative requiring Federal spending bills to originate in the House. While he said “wholesale changes” are unlikely, a Democratic House will likely draw President Trump closer to the political center if he hopes to accomplish anything legislatively.

This outcome would also have a key effect on college students, Campbell explained. A Democratic-controlled House would be in a position to prevent any further changes to the Affordable Care Act, he said, particularly the provision allowing young people to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they are 26.

“If the Democrats take the House, I cannot possibly see how the Affordable Care Act is going to … even [be] really tinkered with any further,” Campbell said. “They couldn’t do it when Republicans controlled both chambers, and so it seems even less likely the Democrats do it. And that matters. Whether or not you stay on your parents’ plan until you’re [26], you should probably care about that.”

While Campbell acknowledged that Indiana politics do not affect Notre Dame in a particularly momentous way, he said the outcome of the tightly-contested Indiana senate race between incumbent Democratic senator Joe Donnelly and Republican businessman Mike Braun could carry implications for South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, a local politician who is rumored to hold higher political aspirations.

“This is an important election for the Senate race,” Campbell said. “If Joe Donnelly, a Democrat, can hold onto his seat in Indiana, that does suggest that other Democrats could do the same. And that might matter for a guy you’ve probably heard of: Mayor Pete. I can guarantee you that Mayor Pete is watching this race very closely. If Joe Donnelly — who is personally popular, very centrist, one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate — can’t hold onto his seat, it suggests that it would be very difficult for any Democrat to win statewide. If he can hold onto his seat, it does suggest an opening for other Democrats and that would put Mayor Pete at the top of the list. Mayor Pete doesn’t have a direct connection to Notre Dame, but he is the mayor of South Bend and he is much beloved here on campus.”

Regardless of the final outcome of Tuesday’s elections, Campbell encouraged Notre Dame students to become more politically engaged.

“I have mentioned that Notre Dame is not a very activist campus, and I think Notre Dame students could be a little more politically active,” he said.

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About Tom Naatz

Tom is a senior at University of Notre Dame. He is majoring in Political Science and Spanish and is originally from Rockville, Maryland. Formerly The Observer's Notre Dame News Editor, he's now a proud columnist for the paper.

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