We are working hard to make sure that the election process is easy to understand and that you feel like you know the candidates and can make an informed choice on election day. And to that end, we’re going to spend today’s broadcast talking about the upcoming Super Tuesday elections and the democratic standouts. And, what does it take to win? What does it take to be that last-minute woman standing? Craig Albert is a political scientist with a Augusta University. He is a frequent guest on The Means Report.
Brad Means: Craig, thanks for coming back. Hope all is well with you.
Dr. Craig Albert: I love being here. Thanks for having me.
Brad Means: I want to ask you about the debates as we look at the democrats trying to whittle down the field. Do voters make decisions based on debate performances? Or is it just a media event for news people to talk about.
Dr. Craig Albert: For undecided voters debates can sway somebody one way or another. It can turn you off from somebody or if you’re on the edge of who you’re gonna vote for, a debate, a good debate performance or a terrible debate performance could help determine somebody that’s not really decided with whom they’re going to vote for. But for those that are already decided, and a lot of the Democratic primary base is already pretty much decided at this point for most of the elections, they know for whom they’re gonna vote and the debates just kinda guaranteed that.
Brad Means: Did you watch the one the other night? The South Carolina.
Dr. Craig Albert: I did.
Brad Means: Do you think people were swayed by that? Because I get what you’re saying if the candidates were making points about their platforms, sure, you can say, Oh, I like that person just seemed kinda like an insult fest.
Dr. Craig Albert: It does seem a little chaotic right now. I mean, I don’t think this is much on the candidates part, as much as it is the moderators part, they weren’t really obeying their own rules. They weren’t confident enough to shut up the candidates when they went over their time. And you really need to have strong moderators do that. So I kind of blame the moderators for that. Nobody really stood out is making real grounds to me in the South Carolina debates the other night. Again, Bloomberg might have made some points. Biden doesn’t do very well in debates. We’re starting to learn this and relearn this from from his old debate performances. He does perform better in town hall forums, in one on one so look for that even on for Super Tuesday look for that to help him and those electoral votes. That’s about it right now is that nobody’s really, you know, doing terribly and nobody’s really doing perfectly.
Brad Means: You know, I’ve told you before, and you’ve encouraged this to watch all different types of media and to read all different types of media so that you’re not just getting one viewpoint. If you watch CNN or Fox these days, they both seem to think that Bernie Sanders is going to be the Democratic nominee. But to hear what you’re saying just now Joe Biden is still a viable candidate. We shouldn’t write him off, should we?
Dr. Craig Albert: Oh, absolutely not. I mean, that contest hasn’t begun and really, until Super Tuesday, that’s when we know we’ll know for sure who’s the former runner who’s the front runner. And I think Biden still has a overwhelming chance of taking Super Tuesday a lot of moderators lot of political pundits have, thrown him away already. But there’s only been three votes so far with the majority of them still to come and he’s he’s still in a position to take that so look for him to take most of the southeast, I would predict.
Brad Means: You would phrase that why because the population is much more diverse and because he has a broader base in that part of the country.
Dr. Craig Albert: Precisely, that’s where he’s been concentrating, he said that from the get go that he was going to concentrate in the south, the southeast. That’s where the majority of his ground game is. So I think that we’ll see a different turn around. Now Bernie is still positioned well positioned with the best grassroots effort in the country, I think? So I think the contest will come down to both of them. What’s paradoxical for the democrats is I’ve said this from day one, I think the only person that can beat President Trump would be Joe Biden. But I think the only person that can really come out on top right now the way it looks for the Democratic primaries might be Sanders. So it looks like he might be somebody that can really pull it out in the end. Without the southeast of course, I still think Biden gets that, but I’m not sure he has the wherewithal to be Donald Trump. And I don’t think you can convince the independence of America to vote for somebody that for sure Trump will label as a socialist, not a democratic socialist, that he will label Bernie Sanders as a socialist, if not a communist, he might just come out and play that game to scare voters away from Bernie Sanders.
Brad Means: What is a socialist or what is socialism and should we believe when people like President Trump and others say if Bernie Sanders were elected, he would take everyone’s money?
Dr. Craig Albert: Well, democratic socialist and that and the understanding or the way that Sanders likes to promote himself is that the government should help take care of everybody as much as they can. So it’s really taxing the very wealthy and redistributing that to the less wealthy in America and really taking away from private corporations and businesses, putting that under the auspices of government control, so that everything is fair and regulated, according to government standards. So it’s a little more heavy handed control of the free market economy. It’s much in the manner of your own the way much of Europe work, so it’s not socialism, the way we would think of Marxism or socialism, but as much more heavy handed government interference into the redistribution, which of course the income tax is already something like that. And America but it’s much more of that in every specter of the of our society. So education would be vastly controlled by the centralized government, healthcare would be much more controlled by decentralized government. So it’s everything that affects your and my daily lives would be handed over to the central government versus the states and local governments, and any of the financial regularities will be much more centralized under a democratic socialist Gambit. But that’s only if Sanders gets elected. And that’s only if Congress approves everything that a democratic socialist as president would propose year to year. And that’s highly unlikely.
Brad Means: Right, that kind of reminds me of the President Trump presidency, it doesn’t really matter, in many cases, what he wants to do. If Congress is not going to help, it’s not going to get done. So what might a Sander presidency look like, someone who just tells you what he wants to happen, but then in the halls of Congress, not much gets accomplished.
Dr. Craig Albert: I think it would look almost identical to a President Trump presidency, you would have the institutions in place. You know, a lot of people were upset that Trump won, and whether I was for him or not, doesn’t matter. But what I told people is that the institutions of the United States have been in, you know, working for over two centuries, and they’re there for a reason to where they control things. They hold things in checks and balances. And that’s precisely the way it’ll work under a President Sanders. So there’s no reason for anybody to be fearful of anybody becoming president because the institutions work in the United States for the most part checks and balances work. We see that in Congress. It works. So people don’t need to be too worried one way or another. But as a president Sanders would look much like President Trump and that a lot of executive orders would be passed.
Brad Means: Gotcha.
Dr. Craig Albert: Things of that executive memorandums, things that you can go around Congress to get done yourself.
Brad Means: Do you think a Sanders versus Trump race would be close?
Dr. Craig Albert: I don’t at all. The way I look at it, I think President Trump would overwhelm Sanders right now, just because President, Sanders base is full of millennials, first of all.
Brad Means: They seem very energized.
Dr. Craig Albert: They seemed very energized in 2016. And they say at home on election day, so lots of pundits say that, that they talk them a lesson that they won’t do that again. But that’s just not the way it’s turning out right now. Millennial voters in Nevada, New Hampshire and Iowa so far have ranged between seven and 12%. Seven and 12% of those eligible to vote have turned out and these elections so far, that’s not, giving that generation much say, in the presidential elections. And remember, the Millennium vote is the largest voting block in the United States. It’s more than any other demographic bracket you can think of. They’re the largest. And yet still, we’re seeing less than 15% of them turnout for these elections right now. So these are only caucuses and primaries. So that’s not saying much. But if they’re not practicing their right to vote now, are they going to win the general election comes?
Brad Means: Well, now you’ve made me think of a whole series of questions. Why don’t they get out and vote? You know, my oldest son just turned 18. And we have this elaborate day plan for election day to watch him vote to take a picture of him voting, et cetra.
Dr. Craig Albert: Not in the voting booth.
Brad Means: Not in the voting booth. No , no we have to be careful. No, certainly not. You have to be careful of that. But do other families not push that? My question is why the apathy? Why do you jump up and down for your candidate at rallies, but don’t vote for him?
Dr. Craig Albert: There’s lots of debate on why younger people don’t vote. And this has been true in American politics since the dawn of American politics, that young age group 18 to 36 just doesn’t turn out and the numbers that one would expect them to, most would say, because it’s they’re trying to get started in their careers. They can’t get off work. So they’re trying to, go to work and do that. You know, one of the only nations that doesn’t have a national holiday for the election, and that hampers a lot of people getting out to the voting booth. You know, we’re on a Tuesday rather than the weekend, you know, it’s like, so that hampers people going out to the polls. So a lot of people especially in that age group are working to create their own family, working to create the career making a name for themselves. Some of them just don’t feel that they don’t understand that one vote does make a difference. You know, they don’t remember Gore versus Bush in 2000. When, you know in Florida, it came down to around 400 votes as to who became the president of the United States, every vote matters. But sometimes, especially in this heated, heated discourse that we live in today, the heated debate, almost a toxic environment from both sides of the political aisle, you tune out and you just don’t care anymore, because you’re like, can I really make a difference? Yes, you can.
Brad Means: Yeah.
Dr. Craig Albert: But you have to do your research and you have to go and vote no matter how hard it is, if you’re sick or if you have to take off work. I know that’s tough on people financially sometimes, but it’s worth it.
Brad Means: What does it mean when we hear that the Russians are interfering with our election? We’re hearing not just for Trump, but for Bernie Sanders as well. What does that mean that they’re interfering?
Dr. Craig Albert: So they have an online information warfare campaign going. So this is information warfare. It dates back centuries.
Brad Means: Where would I see it Facebook?
Dr. Craig Albert: All the social media platforms period.
Brad Means: Okay. And you don’t know you’re looking at it.
Dr. Craig Albert: You don’t know you’re looking at it. No, so it’s very sophisticated. They tend to target extremists on both sides of the political aisle already. They don’t want to tackle people that are moderate, but they’re going to try to post things that really make somebody that’s already on the fringes, radical left or radical right. feel even more alienated or ostracized?
Brad Means: Are you talking about an article that might pop up? Or a comment or in the comment sections might try to push my buttons?
Dr. Craig Albert: Yes. Both of them.
Brad Means: Yeah.
Dr. Craig Albert: The Russia is great at publicizing fake news that they’re great at deep fakes. They get into Facebook and they make stories that aren’t real appear real, you know the average millennial reading span, for instance, I tell this to people all the time for online media, seven words, seven words. So they’ll post or create articles or try to get messages or headlines on Facebook or Twitter and all these online media applications. They just have seven to 10 words that really just foster one image one narrative. Most people don’t click on the article itself. They just get their information off that headline, and then they repost it, re-share it, tweet it, start an argument about it and it’s never even true. It’s all completely made up by Russia. And they’re targeting trying to promote Sanders because he seems to be the most leftist and his followers are most likely to do something to get wild up and go out and do protests and riot and cause more disunity the same with President Trump. Most of his supporters are a little bit further on the right than were traditionally seen. And they’re more likely to get instigated to be emotionally riddled and rattled and to be, you know, fed up if something goes against their political platform. So Russia is targeting both these campaigns to cause disunity. Russia interfered in our elections by causing us to not like one another and hoping will either stay home or put somebody in office that Russia thinks it can handle in a better way.
Brad Means: So if I’m hearing you correctly, it’s less about the outcome, and more about discord and infighting amongst Americans.
Dr. Craig Albert: Russia’s goal is to cause Civil War within the United States.
Brad Means: Why? So we’ll go away?
Dr. Craig Albert: We will, our power will go down relative to Russia, they will increase their power and become the superpower in the world. Russia is still mad that they lost the Cold War and they’re doing everything they can to regain that power and international prestige. And they see several issues in in the United States that they can take advantage of.
Brad Means: We’re talking with Craig Albert, he’s a political scientist at Augusta University and we’re going to continue to talk about politics when we come back, there’s so much to digest, especially as we mentioned, with Super Tuesday on the immediate horizon. If there’s time after that, I’ll ask him if we should be scared of the coronavirus and other topics as the Means Report continues.
Brad Means: Welcome back to the Means Report, political scientist, Craig Albert, coming over from Augusta University, to our set to talk about all things political. We were talking about Russian interference in our elections. And as I told you during the break, I finally fully understood it because you said they’re all about trying to make our power go away in the US so Russia can have it. But you told me it’s not just Russia.
Dr. Craig Albert: That’s right. It’s it’s North Korea. It’s China. It’s Iran. It’s Venezuela. Actually, all of these countries are trying to interfere in our elections and non state actors such as ISIS. ISIS is online Caliphate does the exact same thing to us trying to divide us trying to push us away from one another, trying to allow us to accept their vision of the world rather than the typical American founding ideals. So we have to guard ourselves from Russia, North Korea, China, Iran, Venezuela and ISIS when it comes to online interference.
Brad Means: So is your message don’t believe everything you read?
Dr. Craig Albert: Fact check don’t want one source. Definitely don’t base your opinion on a headline, at least click the news story, read the full article, see who the author is see who the journalist is. Fact check them, get another source, get an outside the US source, do everything you can, if it’s an East Coast coast source, go to a West Coast, get a Central American city website to go to. Go to the BBC everywhere, double, triple check yourself. I know it’s time sensitive. But this is what being a democratically informed and virtuous citizen is about. Like this is the one thing the founding framers of America wanted us to be cautious of is to not be manipulated to do our due diligence and gather as much information as we can be virtuous and civically engaged by reading and gathering up everything we can at least once every four years.
Brad Means: Yeah, seriously, it’s a lot of work, but do it it’s worth it.
Dr. Craig Albert: Yes.
Brad Means: When will we know who the Democratic nominee is or have a better feel for it? It seems so crowded right now.
Dr. Craig Albert: I think Super Tuesday will narrow it down tremendously.
Brad Means: You think the We’ll quit after that.
Dr. Craig Albert: I think so, I think we can see that feeling of probably to be five under real viable contenders at that point. But even amongst those five, you’ll, you’ll have a top three that are really serious contenders by then,
Brad Means: Craig, what are we seeing as far as the future what the future might hold for the candidates who aren’t the nominee, the more they’re on national TV, and the more they even have an opinion or two that resonates with the voters. I feel like I’m gonna see them again somewhere. Is this where cabinet positions start and other high profile jobs were from candidates who did really, really well but didn’t quite make the final cut?
Dr. Craig Albert: Sure, as well as potential vice presidential picks.
Brad Means: vice presidential.
Dr. Craig Albert: Also come out of this out of this mix, but it also might be positioning them for future presidential runs, especially for people like Mayor Pete. Mayor Pete has been doing a great job in the debates and getting his name out. But I’m not sure if he’s quite experienced enough amongst the average independent or democratic leaning person, but this is definitely getting him practice honing him in. Maybe he’ll run for governor after this or maybe he may win, but I think he’s a little too inexperienced. And his name recognition isn’t out yet. But this certainly positions him to be a leader in the future and another four or six years really, getting his name out there. Kind of like the Democratic convention speech where Barack Obama first made a name for himself and then he was president within I think it was eight years from that moment.
Brad Means: You know, my first question to you today was do debates affect people’s opinions? You said they can. What about advertisements, commercials? Michael Bloomberg is inundating the airwaves with his ads. Can they sway a voter just by watching the same commercial over and over?
Dr. Craig Albert: Most people his emotions can be triggered one way or another bad candidates videos they tend to be very vitriolic. They tend to be minimalistic, they tend to be negative and negative ads tend to work for the American voters, not necessarily on the independent voter. So again, if your mind hasn’t been made up a negative ad won’t necessarily convert you to that person. Name recognition helps. There are a large number of studies that show the more name recognition a candidate has going into a voting contest, the more likely that candidate is to win or to gain and plurality of votes in that contest. So Bloomberg, I think he spent $400 million so far of his own money.
Brad Means: Of his own money.
Dr. Craig Albert: On campaign on these commercials, on web ads and everything. That certainly helps him. But I’m not quite sure if it’s going to help him enough. I mean, his name just isn’t really well known nationwide. And Americans tend not to vote for somebody that’s only been a mayor. And I say tend to but we have to remember the political landscape has changed with Trump, who had no political or military experience. So we’re still as political scientists adjusting to the fact that the American voter is changing and it’s changing in significant ways.
Brad Means: Should we worry and I’m glad we did get to this about the coronavirus. You’re not only hearing more about the illness itself, but you’re hearing politicians weigh-in and talk about the preparedness for it in America or lack thereof. Should this be a concern at this point?
Dr. Craig Albert: I think it’s always good to have a healthy concern over a new virus that we don’t quite understand. But the United States has a great health and infectious disease infrastructure. The CDC is well funded. There’s talks about Trump defunded it, he’s funded it enough for it to continue to do its job and its infrastructure is well suited as well. I think he just gave $2.5 billion specifically for this disease. The House Republicans asked him to increase it to $4 billion. Democrats want to increase the 8 billion, so I think you’ll see more money being invested into this. Right now It’s just prepare yourself for the flu and you’re prepared against this. I’m not a that type of doctor so I can’t really answer that. But it’s always healthy, to be cautious over something new and to listen to what the health experts are saying on this and it could affect the elections as well. If we do have an epidemic or we do see the a serious rise in virus cases that come out that could scare people into staying home. So that could affect it in a very serious way. So we wanna, we wanna try to nip this in the bud right now and contain it as much as we possibly can.
Brad Means: If the economy goes down, if the stock market continues to take a hit from this coronavirus, could that impact the election as well? Or would voters be able to distinguish and say, Well, this isn’t anyone’s fault? This is just the world being afraid.
Dr. Craig Albert: I think he could dethrone so to speak President Trump.
Brad Means: You do?
Dr. Craig Albert: Yes. This, this is the one thing that’s really been going his way is the stock market. People’s pocketbooks have been heavily affected by the Trump presidency. Or you know, President Obama takes credit for this whomever it is that’s succeeded for this economy. Trump’s taking the credit for it is during his presidency. And I say that because there’s about a six year turnaround between policies and so the economy generally shifts between six or eight years. So it could be due to President Obama could be due to some of the things President Trump is doing, but it looks good for President Trump if the economy is good. If the virus continues to have stock market crises that could affect very poorly on Trump’s presidential reelection campaign.
Brad Means: So he needs to make this thing go away.
Dr. Craig Albert: He has to make it go away or at least continued to ask the Fed to reduce interest rates to make sure that adjust the stock market to make it rebound and bounce out. He cannot afford a recession if he has a recession. I think the democrats win.
Brad Means: Do you anticipate any other scandals to show up in scandal might not be the right word, but something along the lines of impeachment, that category of thing before November?
Dr. Craig Albert: I think the Demos have been very sophisticated in their attacks on President Trump. I think they will not stop. They’re gonna continue to do that to level things against the president. Right now, they’re trying to, you know, switch the narrative to that he wasn’t removed from office to be but he should have been in the senate trial wasn’t fair, and it wasn’t a way to handle it. And so they’re trying to match that narrative. And so we can You can see that to be continuing but President Trump’s approval ratings rose after the impeachment against their his after they failed to remove him from senate and so they said that his highest of all time, right before his reelection campaign. So.
Brad Means: Who do your students like we have about 40 seconds. Have they told you?
Dr. Craig Albert: Oh, they try to keep things personal and private to themselves.
Brad Means: Yeah,
Dr. Craig Albert: Cause I do. I never tell my students for whom I’m voting. I don’t think it’s anybody’s business. They’re lively debates. You have a lot of Sanders supporters. A lot of Biden supporters and ally are diehard Trump supporters. So it’s a college campus and that’s the way it should be you should have for polarity of voices everybody getting heard and vigorous, intelligent engaged students debating one another and academic setting on who should lead the best country in the world.
Brad Means: Yeah, that’s what’s supposed to happen, in the industry. Yeah. Craig Albert, our time has flown. Thank you. I am looking forward to our time together over the rest of the election season and beyond. And thanks so much.
Dr. Craig Albert: Of course, glad to be here.
Brad Means: Craig Albert Augusta university political scientist.