AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – The Means Report delves into some hot topics today in the world of politics with Augusta University’s Dr. Craig Albert.
Brad Means: Craig, thanks for joining us today.
Dr. Craig Albert: Thanks for having me.
Brad Means: Listen, let’s start with that voting lawsuit against the voting law in the state of Georgia filed by President Biden’s Department of Justice, the attorney general leading the way there, does it stand a chance of overturning the law? Can you tell if Georgia’s law is unconstitutional? And I asked that, knowing that as we begin our taping here on the Thursday before our air date, the Supreme Court, it just came out, ruled in favor of an Arizona law dealing with voting, a controversial law dealing with voting in Arizona. The Supreme Court upholding that. And now we turn our attention to Georgia. Where do you think this lawsuit goes?
Dr. Craig Albert: I think it follow the same trajectory as Arizona. Of course the federal government has a right to sue a state if it thinks the state is being discriminatory or isn’t being inclusive in its voting rights and regulations. So the DOJ has a right to do that. They would have to prove that the state of Georgia is willingly or intending to discriminate or to exclude certain groups or people from voting purposefully for their lawsuit to succeed, which would then force Georgia if it did succeed, it would force Georgia to then redo the law and remake the law to make it more inclusive and accepting to everybody. I don’t think that the federal government case will prove that Georgia is intending to do anything legal or discriminatory. So I think it’ll follow the same path as Arizona and they might review it and tell Georgia to revise some aspects of it. But I don’t think that would be the case.
Brad Means: And I think Governor Brian Kemp shares your belief that this won’t go anywhere. The basic issues that we’re hearing about, the ones that are making the headlines are what some perceive as limits on access to absentee ballots. Reducing they say the number of days that you can apply for an absentee ballot. We’ve all heard the part about whether or not you can give somebody something to drink while they’re waiting in line to vote. My question is, do you think, as it stands, this will keep people from voting. The governor’s big line on this is easier to vote, harder to cheat. Do you picture people next election cycle saying, boy, I wish I could vote, but this law makes it impossible?
Dr. Craig Albert: It depends, I mean, Georgia and the Deep South in general have a history of making laws where certain groups have limited access, or where the laws are constructed in such a way to make it more difficult for certain types of individuals to vote. So the idea here is Georgia doing that now. And we can look at both sides of it and say, well, according to the governor and to the state legislative branch, it appears that they are doing just that of trying to reduce cheating while still allowing increased access to vote for individuals regardless of the type of category a person identifies within that for voting. On the other side, if you have any restrictions, anything that might make it possible to be harder to vote, then it looks like it’s discriminatory on the face of it. So if you limit voting rights whatsoever, it can be looked at that you’re purposely trying to discriminate against a certain class of people. And because Republicans lost in 2020 in the state of Georgia, it has the bad taste that it looks like they’re trying to do things to finesse the law to benefit Republicans and those people that vote for Republicans in the next election cycle. So you can look at both sides of it and both sides have valid arguments there. And so I can’t predict anything here–
Brad Means: Sure.
Dr. Craig Albert: But willing to come back and talk about the decision once they make a decision.
Brad Means: Yeah, and we definitely will hash it out once all the smoke is cleared, but when you talk about discrimination, am I accurate in picturing it as socioeconomic discrimination? That is to say, you have to have an ID to vote, or I can’t afford a car, or I don’t have a way to get to the place where they issue IDs. Does it come down to that kind of outlook and approach if you’re trying to understand this?
Dr. Craig Albert: That’s part of it and then the other side is race oriented as well. So typically in the state of Georgia, particular races have been clustered in with lower social economic status. And so it looks as though you are picking on a particular race when you are limiting voter access. And so with everything going on right now that looks particularly bad for the state, that it seems to be limiting access to particular racial groups. And you can’t do that, right? Like that’s against the law. And so the Supreme Court will have to see is the state of Georgia limiting certain groups access, or is it doing it on the face of it to everybody to make sure that they can guarantee some type of security protocol while giving you full rights and access to free and fair elections. This is a tough balance. So we have to realize that not only does everybody have the right to vote in the state of Georgia, in the United States, when you turn 18 and typical rules apply and typical laws apply, but there’s also now security concerns as well. There’s online security, there’s mailing ballot security and in-person drop box location security concerns. And so the state of Georgia has to balance free and fair and equal access to all eligible voters with those security concerns. And so for the DOJ to demonstrate that the state of Georgia is discriminatory, it has to prove that it’s limiting those rights of voting to one particular group over another. Does that make sense? So it has to show that the law’s intended to benefit one group at the expense of another group.
Brad Means: Yeah, it does, and that I would think be a challenge to prove. I’m not saying the justice department can’t and please to our viewers don’t think that, I’m just saying that is a heavy burden of proof. Let’s talk about real quickly, and I know we’re staying on this, but I wanna make sure that I understand everything and our viewers do as well about the challenges to the voting law and the voting law itself. Just talk in general, Dr. Albert, about the part where you need to show an ID to vote. The argument for that is you have to show an ID for just about everything else you do in the world, what’s wrong with flashing one when you vote? What do you think about that part of it?
Dr. Craig Albert: Yeah, the idea is what you mentioned earlier that not everybody has access or can afford a driver’s license or a photo ID. So what some are arguing for, and I can’t remember off the top of my head, if this became part of the Georgia law, is that the state should provide for you a voter ID free of charge, but then there are other ideas as well. Well, many people that are in the lower socioeconomic classes don’t have vehicles. They can’t go and get a picture ID. And so it makes it harder for them to vote by needing that picture ID.
Brad Means: We’re gonna answer this.
Dr. Craig Albert: So that’s how–
Brad Means: How do those folks get any other services in their lives, or do they live a photo ID free life?
Dr. Craig Albert: For the lower classes of society and the people that are worried about this, they live disenfranchised lives, right? Like they don’t have the same quality of life that you or I have. And that’s the idea is that they should be giving the right to vote even though that they lack so many of the basic necessities in life. And so it’s hard for majority of people to understand what people go without that don’t have access to the basic necessities of life. And we do have those population classes here in Georgia, where they’re on the lower 1% of the poverty scale. And so for me it’s like will just get in the car and going, get your free photo ID–
Brad Means: Sure.
Dr. Craig Albert: For somebody else that might be working 70, 80 hours a week, five, six, seven kids, could be a single parent, right? We don’t know what kind of daily trauma that they have to go through. And so adding another layer which should be in their minds or in some people’s minds, unrestricted access to voting seems as though you’re putting too much of a burden on those individuals.
Brad Means: That’s–
Dr. Craig Albert: The other side, of course, is that you have to have something to demonstrate that you’re voting legally, that you’re who you say you are. And that’s what the court’s supposed to do is balance liberty and security, right? It has to put those two issues to rest and balance them, with liberty comes security guarantees, and you have to make sure that they’re properly aligned.
Brad Means: Well, that’s extremely helpful. And I appreciate you staying with me on the voting rights issue for the time that we did spend on it. We’ll take a look at the bigger picture in the United States right now, and something that is in the news a lot lately, that’s this bi-partisan infrastructure plan. The first question is the word bi-partisan makes me so skeptical. Can both parties work together to get something this big done this early in the Biden administration?
Dr. Craig Albert: Well, it really depends on really one or two Democrats to see if they can budge a little bit on their side. And then pretty much a few Republicans will have to come out of their small spending idea mindset. And that’s where they are right now. The Republicans don’t wanna spend a trillion dollars on something that they don’t see that the United States has a way of getting that money and not going into more deficit. So you’re talking about a country that’s, this changes almost monthly, right? I think we’re at $23 trillion in the hole.
Brad Means: Yeah.
Dr. Craig Albert: So if you’re adding another trillion to that over 10 to 15 years, Republicans wanna make sure that you’re gonna be able to pay that back off. And president Biden and assures that within 15 years it will be paid back off, but we’re $23 trillion in the hole already. So is it really possible to fail? Can you demonstrate that you can balance the budget in a proper way to not add to that $23 trillion? And what that means for the viewers $23 trillion, it’s such a big number that it doesn’t mean anything, right? Like, so how can we be that far in the hole and eventually what are we going to do to get out of that? Because you can’t keep going forever down the hole. And that’s why some Republicans wanna pass a balanced budget amendment for instance, but they really try to stick to their guns when it comes to limited spending, because we’re so far in the hole already.
Brad Means: Craig, if it was just an infrastructure bill, it might be easier to garner support from us constituents out there. I was driving home from the upstate of South Carolina a few minutes before this broadcast and some of the roads were very bumpy and very bad. And I thought, wow, I hope that infrastructure package passes, so this will be a smoother commute. But it’s more than better roads and bridges. You have umpteen, you talk about a number that you can’t grasp anymore, trillions. It’s got trillions of other programs built into it, right? It’s not really an infrastructure bill or package.
Dr. Craig Albert: That’s just the nature of the beast of legislation though.
Brad Means: Yeah.
Dr. Craig Albert: Like every giant budget bill that the United States tries to pass is gonna have pork. Pork is just what you call extra stuff that’s not related period to the bill in question, but in order to get all the senators to vote for that, you have to give some money their way for different pet projects, for instance, that benefits the state of Georgia, so they can sign on and say, this is what I brought to the state of Georgia, for instance, for this bill. So vote for me next time ’cause I always have your interest in mind, right? All bills now work like that. You’re never gonna get something passed that doesn’t have these types of earmarks or pork in it. And that’s just unfortunately the way the bureaucracy has happened, how it’s evolved in today’s day and age. That’s why we’re at $23 trillion in debt because this is the natural order of the budget process.
Brad Means: You’re right, those pork projects are everywhere. When we come back, we’re gonna continue our conversation with Dr. Craig Albert talking about more goings on in our nation’s Capitol and here at home. We’ll have to move to our lightning round, I suspect, because we have a lot of topics left with Greg, you’ll walk away better informed. Stay with us.
Brad Means: Welcome back to The Means Report. We appreciate you staying with us as we cover some hot political issues in our country and here at home with Augusta University political science expert, Dr. Craig Albert. Dr. Albert, recently in the headlines, we saw the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, move to get a committee going to investigate the incidents of this past January 6th at our nation’s Capitol. Republican leadership, pushing back on Republican participation in such an investigation, such a committee. If we do end up forming a committee, will it get anywhere or tell us anything we don’t already know from that day?
Dr. Craig Albert: Oh, I think so, an ad hoc select committee, which is exactly the type of committee that the United States had for the Maghazi attacks in 2011, I think 2013, one of those two years. I’m so sorry, I missed up the date on that. But the ad hoc select committee goes after and looks for the evidence to intelligence and tries to process, tries to put together a fact-based report and analysis on what exactly happened, who participated, how did they participate. And more importantly in my opinion is how to prevent something like that from happening in the future. So you need a select committee report in order to reorganize government apparatus to make sure that something like that can’t happen again. We had a formalized the one after 9/11, a more ad hoc after Maghazi And this just makes sense for at least political scientists purposes or security purposes to investigate as full and give all your energy and resources as you can. And you can’t really do that without having a select committee. That’s what allows the full resources of the United States government to look into that. I think both sides, the Republicans and Democrats are obviously politicizing this, but I do think it behooves the Republican Party to stand behind this because without standing behind creating this committee, it looks as though they’re trying to hide something. I’m not saying that they are doing that, I’m saying it looks like that. And of course the Democrats can message that even more in the next election cycle that look, the Republicans are trying to hide something that’s why they don’t wanna participate in the select committee on January 6. And so I don’t think it’s very smart for Republicans to not call for open select committee investigation into this.
Brad Means: A few days ago, we saw the US House voting to remove a statue of former Georgia governor, Alexander Hamilton Stephens from Statuary Hall up in DC as well as a move to get rid of other stone monuments to those who fought for the Confederacy. My question is, is there a point or a number of monuments that we must reach for people to say, okay, that’s enough. We have gotten rid of enough monuments, everything is where it should be now. Do you see an end to this? And what do you think about the necessity of it?
Dr. Craig Albert: Brad, this might be the toughest question you’ve asked me —
Brad Means: Well, I know–
Dr. Craig Albert: Few years of doing this.
Brad Means: And we should say this isn’t your opinion as a human being, it’s your opinion as a political scientist. It’s just like me asking the question. I see the removal of monuments in my high school in Jacksonville, Florida, Robert E. Lee Senior High School, where I went, where my dad went, my uncle. It’s not called Robert Lee Senior High School anymore. That’s fine, they changed the name. And then we see this removal of another monument from DC. I understand the reasons behind name changes and monument removals. The question is just, can you put a number on it? Is there a finite number of monument removals that we can expect?
I’m just not sure how to answer that–
Brad Means: Yeah.
Dr. Craig Albert: It’s you have to balance one group of people’s heritage and pride in that, right? Against another groups where they see oppression and hate for that. And so it’s the question, slavery is still the dominant legacy of the United States, or at least let me rephrase that, it’s the dominant scar on the United States, right? And so you still have to deal with millions of people who when they see a Confederate statue or Confederate named building in public, that reminds them of the heritage of slavery, which their family and ancestors experienced. And I can’t even relate to what that must feel like and to still see a symbol or a statue and be reminded of what your heritage has gone through. So that’s a harrowing, horrorful feeling I would imagine for those individuals. And so there’s a–
Brad Means: It’s interesting, I was gonna say, I had this conversation with my children recently and the tone of it was very similar to the tone that you’re taking with your answer right now. And so it’s just interesting to hear that how I just tried to not let them have their own opinions, but to kind of present the argument or the conversation much as you are. Let me just say as a political scientist and someone who knows a bit about the history of politics in this nation to say the least, have we ever seen something like this? Have we ever seen a phase in the history of the United States where people say, okay, that’s enough emblems that evoke memories of hatred and oppression, let’s change that to make all feel welcome and at ease, has it ever happened before?
Dr. Craig Albert: Not to this extent, this is the largest to the extent that we’ve seen as a country, but at the same time we’re in like this great awakening if I can call it that of the racial question, the injustice of slavery is really being for, for so often in the United States, so many people have just not want to look at it and deal with it, they just wanna say that was back then–
Brad Means: Yeah.
Dr. Craig Albert: Without realizing that there’s still some effects that that has on people in today’s society. And so now the question is so large because there’s a racial awakening and time to do justice in this regard. What I will say, one of my areas of expertise is identity and memory and warfare. And you don’t wanna erase the atrocities of what happened. Before the viewers freak out on what I’m saying is you wanna take those statues, those names and stuff, and you wanna put them in museums, you wanna preserve them, and you still need to teach these things, just like we teach everything horrific that happened in World War II, right? Like, you’d have to teach these things. You have to demonstrate what happened and illustrate it. And I think statues and emblems and symbols do great justice for teaching history. The idea is it should those things be in the public domain where everybody’s reminded of it all the time, or should they be relegated to a museum, or a civil war museum or something like that, where you’re not exposing descendants of slaves to see these symbols of slavery without them wanting to, right? So when something, you’re talking about it, I’m sorry, it’s hard for me to compose my thoughts here, ’cause it’s such a sensitive topic, Brad, but I don’t know what it feels like to be in that situation where you’re reminded of slavery, but the idea is like, wow, if you can throw yourself in that situation as best you can and try to be empathetic to it, it shouldn’t be in the public square, right?
Brad Means: Right.
Dr. Craig Albert: Maybe it should be in the museum. And therefore you satisfy one thing. See, we satisfy both sides where the heritage, the history, what happened is still preserved, you’re not taking that out of textbooks. You’re teaching it. You’re still showing what happened and how it happened and how the United States is rebounding from that. But at the same time, it’s not in Capitol Hill, where people go every day to see that the nation’s greatness and they don’t wanna feel oppressed by looking at a statue of a Confederate leader–
Brad Means: Yeah.
Dr. Craig Albert: Or somebody in that heritage.
Brad Means: Now I think you–
Dr. Craig Albert: So this is a tough issue, but we can’t push it aside. We have to deal with it, no matter how hard it is to deal with. And I think it’s good that the United States is finally trying to deal with this in a very respectable and hopefully discoursed manner where we’re talking about these issues like we are here. And I know I’m being sensitive enough to all the issues there and I apologize if I’m not.
Brad Means: No, you are, and I think that the answer to the original question, was there a number of monuments, is there X number we have to get to for all people to be at peace and comfortable and happy? No, there’s not a number, but I think–
Dr. Craig Albert: There’s not.
Brad Means: Maybe.
Dr. Craig Albert: Sorry was such a long .
Brad Means: No, no, it was a thoughtful and helpful answer, but I suspect, at least it’s my hope that when we reach that number, whatever it is, we’ll all know it, we’ll all feel it. And maybe it’ll be, as you said, textbook learning or museum learning, but not walk through the public domain learning. And so we’ll have to see what becomes of that issue, but I certainly appreciate you spending so much time on it. And I have like 15 seconds, are you excited about normal college in a few weeks?
Dr. Craig Albert: Oh, I’m so excited. I just confirmed my participation in regular classes in the fall. So my students will be in-person for better or worse.
Brad Means: Wow.
Dr. Craig Albert: Whether they like it or not, we will be in-person, at least for my classes. Some professors still have the right depending on their susceptibility to things from COVID to teach online.
Brad Means: Yeah.
Dr. Craig Albert: But I can’t wait to see my students. One of the areas I teach is political philosophy, and that’s so hard to get students even care about it in the first place and doing it purely online is a challenge for the students as well as myself. So being able to engage in-person–
Brad Means: It’s gonna be–
Dr. Craig Albert: I talk about Plato and Aristotle and Tocqueville and the Founding Fathers–
Brad Means: Yeah.
Dr. Craig Albert: It’s gonna be awesome. I can’t wait for the first week of classes.
Brad Means: It is gonna be awesome. We’ll race out of this segment. We’ll see you very soon on The Means Report, Craig Albert, thank you for everything.