JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – After Mississippi contentious gubernatorial race ended on Tuesday, a professor at Millsaps, Dr. Eric Schmidt, said he wasn’t terribly surprised by the outcome.
“What surprised me more than anything was how many Democrats in the state and nationally were under the impression that Brandon Presley had a fighting chance at winning the election,” he said.
Though the election came out pretty much how Schmidt expected it to, he said what happened was very noteworthy.
“To see the Democratic Party move the needle in Mississippi, you might not want to be that disappointed today. You were talked about in The New York Times as a viable Democratic campaign for governor in the state of Mississippi, which has been understood for at least the past 20 years as being sort of on a march toward Republican Party consolidation,” he stated.
Schmidt said people are very polarized right now and wedded to both partisan identities and issue positions that they hold onto firmly.
“What are we to do? I don’t know. But I know the students that I speak with are very interested in finding the answer. They don’t like it either. No, no. Students I’ve found associate politics and political debate with hurt feelings at best and with violence at worst,” he said. “They don’t see politics as an opportunity to advance in a good faith way. They see it as something to be avoided because it’s too controversial, it’s too ugly, it’s too dirty, it’s too angry.”
As an educator, Schmidt said his goal is to help students work through this misperception that politics is only like that, and the solution to intergroup conflict is intergroup contact.
“You need Republicans to talk to Democrats and find out that not all of them, or even most of them are the enemy. You need Democrats to talk to Republicans and realize that, in many cases, they’re talking about people who are just trying to figure out very, very complicated things and doing the best that they can,” Schmidt said.