Political fallout: How COVID-19 will impact the country’s political system

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Dr. Craig Albert joins The Means Report to look at the political ramifications of the COVID-19 virus.

Brad Means: Dr. Albert, welcome back.

Dr. Craig Albert: Thanks for having me.

Brad Means: Remember a few weeks ago when we were on this set breaking down the South Carolina primary and everything was normal?

Dr. Craig Albert: Yes, this is the new normal now, unfortunately.

Brad Means: It really is unfortunate. And I do know that we’ll all make it through. But I wanted to start with the presidential election. Will we have that this year? And I feel ignorant asking that, but I tell you with this situation being so fluid, you can never know, can you?

Dr. Craig Albert: You can’t know, and this is a tough question that I can’t give the answer to. In a time of national emergency it is feasible that a national election could be postponed. However it is constitutional. The national election must take place during that Tuesday in November. There’s not really a law dictating otherwise. That’s in the constitution itself. We’ve seen instances in other countries where elections have been postponed because of a national emergency, but never in this country in recent memory has that happened. But it’s a possibility. And I think that would be a wrong mistake. I think the better option would be for mail in ballots or to increase virtual voting somehow. You already see Vice President Joe Biden the presumptive nominee for the Democrats calling for postponement of the Democratic Convention. That is not good news for the national election.

Brad Means: Dr. Albert, when you say things like voting electronically or by mail, I think of things like hackers and mail fraud. Can those means of casting a ballot be trusted?

Dr. Craig Albert: No, not with 100% trustworthiness guaranteed. Especially with it having to be implemented in a quick pace for anything done online or mail in to be certified as 100% legit, unfortunately. But I think that option of having an insecure election process is better than the alternative which would be having no election or a postponement of an election which would have catastrophic effects on our democratic discourse.

Brad Means: Does a non-traditional way of voting favor either side?

Dr. Craig Albert: Some would argue that this would increase voter turnout which would favor the Democrats. So I think you might see the Democrats calling for that and of course, I think you would see Donald Trump call against it and just say, we’re just gonna postpone it for a little while and still proceed as normal once the national emergency is lessened, or we can contain the coronavirus to guarantee another widespread pandemic won’t break out during the fall, for instance, which they’re already warning against that this could happen again in the fall. So I think the numbers would suggest that it would benefit the Democrats. Again, I think that’s better than a postponement though.

Brad Means: Dr. Albert, we’ve talked about, in the past, people who would do us harm, terrorists, threats online, things like that. So since we’ve talked about that, since we’ve known each other, I’ll ask you this. Do you think this virus just randomly showed up? Or do you think its existence was intentional?

Dr. Craig Albert: That’s a tough question as well. All indications point to the fact that it was created in the wet market in Wuhan Province of China. There are some theories out there that it was released accidentally from a weapons lab in China. The intelligence is not being released on what that is. So I think we should go with the understanding that it was probably unintentionally contracted from, I believe, it was a bat being eaten in Wuhan Province. It does point to the fact that nation states do create these types of weaponized viruses for the eventual use in a weaponized scenario. But I don’t think that this is one of those instances.

Brad Means: Let’s take a look at our economy, and its current state and whether you think it can bounce back to what it was pre-virus. The president has said “It would come back “stronger than ever,” can it?

Dr. Craig Albert: I don’t think it’ll be as strong as at that peak point in the Trump presidency. I don’t think the stock market will rebound that quickly from this. I think we’re in for a tough couple of years and we haven’t seen the economic collapse that this is going to cause yet. We’re just now starting to tilt that way. Even if we have another bail out package or security blanket given to us with another $2 trillion for infrastructure completion which I think is what the president’s trying to push for now that unemployment rate is going to continue to increase and could potentially get to 30, 35% which is greater than The Great Depression era was. So we won’t see the full consequences of what COVID is doing to our national economy until August, September, October. And we definitely won’t see the rebound from that for another two to three years. The economic cycle is already a four to six year cycle. So we won’t see the full damages of this nor the bailout of it, or the correction cycle for years to come.

Brad Means: Are you a fan of these stimulus packages, the kind that put checks in everybody’s hands? Does that kind of payment really help our economy?

Dr. Craig Albert: Brad, there is no telling. I don’t want to sound alarmist but I want the audience to know that we’re in uncharted territory. This is as if we were at world war, and there’s no real way of understanding what type of economic stimulus will help, how it’s going to be affected or anything. We just don’t know right now. I think politics as we understand has to be pushed aside and we have to make room for mitigating circumstances, to help ease the suffering and the pain of the individual that’s laid off, the businesses that are laid off. I think the only solution that could have been proffered is just to send checks to people and hope that it’ll keep people alive, and food banks won’t run out. So the traditional conservative versus liberal principles of this type of situation, don’t hand out money to people, I just don’t think that applies. I think that is a two month old discussion that no longer fits the political discourse with the catastrophe that we’re seeing.

Brad Means: We talked about the Russian collusion investigation a couple years ago, we talked about impeachment certainly at length on this program. You told me time and again that President Trump is at his best when he has a foe. Is this invisible enemy the same thing?

Dr. Craig Albert: That’s a great question. The issue here is that the enemy is too good. So President Trump can’t take its words or its actions and hold it against it for his benefit. He can’t manage the narrative on this situation. Because COVID-19, coronavirus isn’t a rational actor. It understands and obeys no boundaries, no borders, no laws whatsoever. It’s not the traditional enemy that Trump can really force into a narrative that he controls himself, to proffer himself up and to make his message be heard. So I think he’s starting to see that and he’s stumbling a little bit here, and he’s uncertain as to how to handle this type of response. I guess the closest kin would be handling ISIS. They could be everywhere, they could attack virtually or kinetically, they could attack any country. But even they had a response against the United States counter insurgency, counter terrorism aspects. Coronavirus doesn’t have that type of response. So he can’t manage the message the way he wants. And so he’s grasping at straws to be able to manage and lead effectively with this unknown enemy that we haven’t faced before.

Brad Means: Just a couple more quick questions, Dr. Albert. I know that we’re all, including our government learning as we go here. At this point do you think our government is doing enough is doing all it can?

Dr. Craig Albert: I absolutely think so. It might be bad here, and it might get a little worse in the coming weeks and months, but we’ll rebound. We will rebuild the infrastructure. Whatever happens will be fixed and turned around. A lot of people are criticizing President Trump for his actions on this, but I think objectively, as a conservative, you’re going to start out small and not roll out a big centralized response to it. So I think that did not fit the president well, it didn’t fit the actions of the response well. So he was slow because conservative principle there is to let the states handle it first. So he was unprepared for how widespread it would be even though there was some professionals warning him of that. Now that he knows, now that everything is on war footing really, I think you’ll see a huge ramp up in the response, the capability, the infrastructure. The institutionalization of the response is in full swing now. So you should start to see a flattening of the curve in the next two to three weeks because of everything that’s occurring. And most of the states now, I believe it’s up to 40 have the shelter in place aspect which again, is a part of Trump’s governing idea, being a conservative, you let the states rule on this. So he’s kinda relying on the states to do so. And when they fail, he sees the federal government as coming in to bolster their response to the disease and to the humanitarian crisis that’s likely to form from this. So I think it was slow to begin but the reasons behind that is conservative ideology. Now that it’s in full force, I think that you can look for a greater institutionalized response against it.

Brad Means: Dr. Albert, I can’t thank you enough, our time has flown by as it always does. We’ll get back with you very soon, I can assure you. But thanks for all you’re doing. We appreciate your input.

Dr. Craig Albert: Of course. Everybody stay happy and safe.

Brad Means: Thank you sir.

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