AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – This week The Means Report turns its attention to the hot button political issues facing our nation. It is something that is done periodically so that not only you can stay up to speed on what’s going on behind the headlines, but so we can all learn things from our political experts in town who are kind enough to stop by and enlighten us as to all the goings on nationally and globally, in many cases. This time around, we cover the January 6th hearings as that committee continues to meet and investigate the events of that day, plus recent Supreme Court decisions and how they might factor into the upcoming elections – the midterms. The Trump Factor… how much of an influence will Former President Trump have on your choice at the ballot box, and the women’s vote – how key is that going to be in determining who our future office holders are? Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte is a professor at Augusta University, a political scientist and joins The Means Report to offer her expertise.

Brad Means: And Dr. Lizotte, I appreciate you taking the time to come back and talk to us today.

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: Thank you for having me.

Brad Means: Well, you’re welcome. And I’m glad you’re here really, because some of these issues are difficult to understand on their surface. And so I appreciate you kind of helping us dig deeper. Like the recent Supreme Court decision that made such headlines, continues to, essentially overturning Roe versus Wade, giving the power when it comes to abortion to the states. Letting the states make their own laws. So the question is, do you think this issue, abortion, Roe v. Wade, the decision, is gonna impact people’s choices at the polls both in the next few months and in the future?

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: I think that it will. I think that it might not create any sort of blue wave, meaning that the Democrats are going to be able to keep the House and the Senate but I definitely think it will be on people’s minds when they go and vote in November. I think it’s probably more likely to have an impact in the future after people start to see some of the consequences of this change.

Brad Means: Yeah, I was, you always hear candidates ask the question, where do you stand when it comes to abortion? So, if I’ve heard you correctly, whatever their answer is to that question might not be the deciding factor. Voters will consider a range of factors when they’re making their choice, right?

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: Yes, I think that people are very concerned about inflation right now.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: I think that’s a big one. So I think that’s mostly people’s day-to-day lives that’s what’s affecting them and we’re not going to start to see the effects of this decision for a while now. And given that the majority of Americans, or at least a plurality, they support slash are uncertain about abortion. So that uncertainty means that they’re not probably going to feel really galvanized by this Dobbs decision until they start to see the consequences of it. If those are negative consequences or if those are positive.

Brad Means: Then why is this issue all I see on social media? You can’t get through your Facebook or Twitter feed without coming upon countless stories about Roe v. Wade and about this recent decision. Is it a vocal minority or is it just people that’s how social media works?

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: Right, so I think that it is the activists on both side are the most vocal.

Brad Means: Okay.

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: So for states like Georgia where they’re likely to move even beyond the six week ban that is going to be put in place and probably ban it outright, the majority of Georgians don’t support that. The majority of people actually think that it should be legal under some circumstances for some range of time. But I think that it’s not necessarily a single issue that people vote on, unless you’re pro-life. Pro-life voters tend to vote based on that issue alone. Whereas what Democrats are really trying to get is for Democratic voters and some independents to make their vote choice based on that issue alone. And I just don’t think that’s gonna happen come this November. It might happen in a couple years,

Brad Means: Yeah.

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: But I don’t think it’s gonna happen this November.

Brad Means: Okay, and so you’ve already answered the question. I’ll ask it anyway. You don’t think this prompts more women to come out and vote, do you? That it’s not that much of a driving issue today?

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: I don’t think so. I mean, definitely women are varied and people tend to assume that all women are pro-choice, and that’s definitely not the case. Republican women are more likely to be pro-choice than Republican men, but they’re not pro-choice like Democratic women are. So, I just don’t see it having this huge resurgence. I could be wrong, for sure.

Brad Means: Right. No, but I mean, I’ve seen polls where when you see the range of issues, and you mentioned inflation, it’s near the top of the list. And this issue, abortion and Roe v. Wade and what has just happened, is on that list of concerns but it’s not as high as the others. Let me ask you about the January 6th Committee. We’re continuing to see them meet. It’s something that is carried live on some of the cable networks. What’s this committee doing? They can’t, it can’t prosecute anybody. What’s its point?

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: Well, Congress can decide to make it so that it’s not gonna influence future elections. They can make a decision to make it so that this isn’t gonna happen again. So I think that that’s one of the major reasons. I think they also just want to send a message and make it very clear that this was a really terrible thing that happened and Trump maybe shouldn’t be able to run again.

Brad Means: Yeah, well, they can’t say that you can’t run again to him, can they? Can that committee, I know the Department of Justice is sort of on the sidelines watching all this, but this Congressional committee can’t ban him?

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: Right, the Department of Justice is really going to be the entity that matters when it comes to whether or not he can run again.

Brad Means: What about Former President Trump? Why is he still in the headlines so much where almost two years into the Biden administration, but I talked about your social media feeds being clogged if it’s not a headline involving the Supreme Court, it’s one involving Donald Trump these days. Why is he still dominating the news cycle?

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: Well, I think that that is definitely a choice of his. He has a lot of staunch supporters.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: But there are also a lot of Republicans who make other decisions. We saw people vote for Kemp even though Trump was supporting another candidate. And I think that Trump is really trying to attract as much attention as possible and doing things like not supporting an incumbent like Kemp. And so that attracts a lot of attention. We’re talking about it here, I’ve done other interviews talking about it, so I think that he is doing things that he knows strategically will get him a lot of attention.

Brad Means: I wanna ask you when we come back a couple of more questions about Donald Trump and then we’ll move on to the other issues of the day, politically and otherwise. And so I appreciate you staying with us for that in just a moment. Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte, our special guest on “The Means Report”. Please stay with us. We will be right back.

Part 2

Brad Means: Welcome back to “The Means Report”. Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte, political scientist from Augusta University, our special guest today. We’re talking about a wide range of issues that have been making headlines lately. Let me go back to the Roe v. Wade decision real quick. And not to ask you about that decision, but to ask you if you think, as many do, that that decision could open the door for other big Supreme Court stances. Like making gay marriage illegal or taking some sort of stand on that and other hot button issues. Do you see that at this point?

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: Yes.

Brad Means: You do? You do see-

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: I definitely do.

Brad Means: You’re not ruling it out.

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: No. You know, Justice Thomas said in his concurring opinion that it does in fact open the door to changing all the other landmark cases that were based on this right to privacy that Roe v. Wade was based on. The only case that he didn’t mention that’s based on the right to privacy is interracial marriage and that’s probably because he’s part of an interracial marriage. But otherwise, he mentioned gay rights issues, birth control, all of the other cases that have to do with the right to privacy.

Brad Means: Can the Supreme Court go away or can it be packed or can it change from what it is now as many people wish it would?

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: Yes, it definitely can.

Brad Means: That could happen?

>>Yes, the constitution does not have a set number, which is really fun when I teach ’cause they all assume that the Constitution specifically says nine justices but it does not.

Brad Means: Right, but it’s nine.

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: It does not. And also, the Constitution doesn’t specifically give them the right of judicial review. An early justice just decided that that was going to be the role of the Supreme Court, meaning that they can say that laws are unconstitutional. That was not originally explicitly stated in the Constitution, which is ironic given the Originalist perspective of many of the Conservative justices right now.

Brad Means: What’s it take to change that? If we wanna put 20 justices on there, how’s that done? You just have to have the right number of lawmakers agree to it?

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: Yes, it’s under Congress’ purview. They can decide the size of the Court.

Brad Means: Let me ask you this about President Trump. We’re talking about him before the break so we go back to that topic and ask you about Former President Trump’s endorsements, all right? He’s had some success nationwide, maybe not so much here in Georgia, with candidates he endorses winning. Do you think endorsements work? That his work and that it’s, you know, do candidates like it when he endorses them? Or is it kind of a case by case thing?

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: I think that it’s a case by case. I definitely think candidates like it when he endorses them.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: Because it definitely raises their profile, their name recognition. But I think sometimes it helps and sometimes it just really doesn’t seem to matter. Here in Georgia, I don’t think that it mattered with Walker honestly-

Brad Means: But he endorses Walker.

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: Right, exactly and Georgians love him.

Brad Means: Right.

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: So I think that it really depends on the individual election and the individual candidate and what they’re able to make of that endorsement. But in general, endorsements, they can get some more name recognition, some more media attention, some more fundraising abilities, but they’re not a huge jump in the polls usually.

Brad Means: Do you think President Trump will run again?

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: Yes.

Brad Means: You do think it’s gonna happen?

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: Yes, unless he is banned from doing so or unless he sees that after the January 6th hearings that his approval ratings are way, way down.

Brad Means: Okay.

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: Which I think is another reason why they’re holding these hearings is to try to convey the truth about what happened and the fact that he was clearly doing things that have never been done before.

Brad Means: Go back to Herschel Walker. Who do you, I don’t wanna say who do you like, who do you think might win that race between Walker and the incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock? I don’t know if I believe polls a lot, but recent one showed Warnock up by a good amount.

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: Yeah, so I think that it’s still a toss up. I think unless we see a number of polls showing that, I wouldn’t necessarily trust it and it’s very early. I do think that Warnock has an advantage, not only because he’s an incumbent but because Stacey Abrams is running. And as we saw, she’s very good at getting out the vote. And so the fact that she’s running means that people who would support her are likely to support him and those people are going to get out and vote.

Brad Means: How much weight do you think fame and name recognition hold with voters? Where they just say, “I don’t care what the issues are. This is Herschel Walker, check.”

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: So, I think that name recognition definitely helps particularly in primaries. And that includes fame, of course. But I think that a Democrat’s not gonna vote for Herschel Walker. It doesn’t matter if they love Georgia football. It’s not gonna matter. But ultimately I think some Independence might think, “Oh well, I don’t really care either way, but it’s Herschel Walker.”

Brad Means: But it’s her, yeah. Okay, all right. That’s interesting to hear. Dr. Lizotte, let me ask you about something you mentioned at the top of the show, and I knew we would get to this. It’s the economy. And I just want your thoughts on how much of a role you think that will play in the upcoming elections. It seems tough out there right now. The way things are getting more and more expensive every day.

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: Yeah, I think that it’s going to be the number one issue. When we look at exit polls, I think everyone is going to be saying that’s what influenced their vote the most. I think that it’s unfortunate that most Americans don’t understand how complicated that issue is and the fact that the President and Congress don’t have as much control as you’d think, but particularly the President. So the idea that they would punish the President’s party because the President isn’t doing enough doesn’t really make total sense, to be honest.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: Just because he doesn’t have that much control.

Brad Means: But it doesn’t sound like that’s something a candidate would admit. That any candidate would probably get up on the stump and say, “I’ll fix this inflation problem. Y’all please vote for me,” right?

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: Right, definitely. And they have certain things that they’re able to do and that he has been doing to try to deal with it. But ultimately, when it comes to the Fed, they get to decide the interest rate. They’re really the ones that influence whether or not we have inflation and growth in the economy.

Brad Means: Do you think that things could turn around before the November election? We’re, say, on election eve, a voter would think, “You know what? Things aren’t as bad as they were last summer. I can see things improving now.” And the economy is not as much of a dominant issue or the issues that we’re having economically gonna be here for a while. What do you think?

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: I think that it could turn around in the sense that it could stop rising, the inflation. Because it has been rising pretty steadily. So I think that that would be the best case scenario for the Democrats would be for us to see it stop rising and for economic experts to start saying, “All right, we’re reaching a corner here. We’re about to turn a corner so it’s gonna start going down.” But I don’t think that we’re gonna see a huge cut in inflation rates by November.

Brad Means: Why do we still have supply chain issues? Why do grocery store shelves not look quite right right now? And why do car dealers have no vehicles on their lots among other things?

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: Right, well I think that big companies, especially which lots of big box stores or car dealerships, they move kind of slowly. So in terms of how they reacted to the pandemic, they slowed down a lot of things. And even though it’s been pretty much over for a while, it takes a while for them to adjust. So a lot of grocery stores, big box stores, they ordered things that people were buying during the pandemic that people aren’t buying anymore. And so I think that that is very much a part of it. And the same thing with car dealerships. People are much more interested in efficient cars because of fuel costs, but that’s not what they were banking on. That’s not what they were predicting was going to happen. And so I think that it’s largely because it just takes a while to adjust to changes in people’s buying habits.

Brad Means: Let me talk to you about mass shootings. And your colleague Dr. Craig Albert from AU told me years ago when we were discussing a mass shooting that this was going to become commonplace, and he was right unfortunately. So my question to you is can politicians do anything to stop mass shootings? I think the answer to that might be no, but at least to reduce them. Do you have anything off the top of your head that you think could be done quickly to make this not happen so much?

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: I don’t, I can’t think of anything quickly.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: So the Supreme Court just made a decision that made it very difficult for states at a state level reduce access to guns, reduce access to carrying guns in public. And so, states are going to be testing what does this new Supreme Court case mean in terms of what they’re able to do to restrict gun use. I think that one of the major reasons why we haven’t seen really effective gun law changes is because the NRA is very powerful in terms of its lobbying. And if you are a Conservative, if you are pro-gun rights generally, you don’t wanna be on their list of bad politicians. So those individuals, even if their constituents wanna see some changes, they rely on their good name with the NRA and their ability to raise money because of that. It’s really ironic though, because the majority of NRA members actually support certain changes to the law to make it more difficult if you have a mental illness or past issues with violence to get a gun. And some of them are even willing to reduce the amount of semi-automatic weapons that are available.

Okay. So it’s really interesting this disconnect between what the NRA is actually pushing and what their members actually want. So I think that if you’re an NRA member you should do your best to communicate to that organization how you actually feel about these things, or perhaps stop paying your dues if they continue to go against what the members actually want.

Brad Means: Yeah, but even if we had the most stringent gun laws on planet Earth, would those laws and their impact ever really trickle down to the streets? For me it’s tough to imagine a would-be criminal telling his colleagues, “I can’t do this crime tonight because I simply don’t have access to a gun.”

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: I think that it would have a huge influence. So we see in other countries like Australia, they had the largest mass shooting to date in the 90s. And they outlawed guns and their violence rates have gone way down. They don’t have mass shootings anymore. I understand this idea that if you’re a criminal you can get a gun. It would be insanely expensive though. It’s like $20,000 to buy a gun in Australia because they’re outlawed. So it’s that much more difficult to get on the black market. So it would definitely reduce the number of guns and likely reduce other forms of violence as well. That’s what we’ve seen in Australia.

Brad Means: Let me just try to switch gears 180 degrees and ask you in the remaining time we have about Ukraine and the situation there. Russia’s invasion of that country continues. Why are we sending billions of dollars to Ukraine? And is it doing any good?

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: Well, we’re sending billions of dollars because we want to communicate to Putin that he can’t just invade sovereign nations. That the Soviet Union no longer exists and that he cannot fulfill this dream of expanding and becoming the USSR once again. So that’s the major reason. If he succeeds in Ukraine, if Putin succeeds in Ukraine, that’s not gonna be the last country that he invades. He’s invaded other countries already. But we’ve seen Finland, Sweden, they’re applying for NATO status. Poland is nervous. There are lots of countries that are scared that they’re going to be next. And so the U.S. is really trying to avoid any sort of nuclear war obviously, but also communicate, “You can’t do this. We are going to support any country that you invade and make it very difficult for you to be successful.”

Brad Means: Last question, and I can’t let you get away. As a professor, as somebody who interacts with our young people every day, and I know it’s summer break right now, but what’s their outlook? How are the young people, the college students, doing today in this world?

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: I think that young people are having a difficult time. The pandemic and the changes, whether they were in high school or in college, they haven’t necessarily grown out of that yet. So they got sort of used to a different way of the world. And I think, mental health issues in terms of anxiety, depression, for all of us, including young people, they’re vulnerable population when it comes to those sorts of things because of big changes in their lives. And I think that they’re also feeling, like many Americans, a little disillusioned by what’s happening politically in the world.

Brad Means: All right, well I appreciate that. I appreciate that insight into the pulse of those future leaders. And I really appreciate your time, Dr. Lizotte. Thanks for being here today.

Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte: Thank you so much for having me.

Brad Means: Absolutely. Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte, political scientist from Augusta University. Hope you feel more well-informed right now. I sure do.