AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – The Means Report continues to tackle the political issues of the day, and this week it is with Dr. Craig Albert. He will discuss Trump vs. Biden, the safety of the 2020 election, and how COVID-19 is impacting the country’s security.
Brad Means: Dr. Albert, how are you, healthy I hope?
Dr. Craig Albert: Healthy and happy. Thanks for having me.
Brad Means: That’s good news. It’s always our pleasure to have you. And I wanna talk about something that’s been confusing me lately, and it confused me in 2016 and you sort of walked me through it. And that’s the polling system that we have because lately many of the news outlets have reported this double digit lead that Joe Biden has in the polls over Donald Trump. Now, I know that the polls were wrong in 2016, but I don’t think Donald Trump was down this much to Hillary Clinton back then. What are your thoughts on the numbers we’re seeing?
Dr. Craig Albert: The polls in 2016 were a little bit closer than they are now. Most of them had Clinton leading and beating a little bit handedly candidate Trump at that time. This time there’s a wider margin and it’s a little bit more precise and people are being more cautious and in their predictive analysis. So I think the polls are a little bit better this time around because we’ve had four years of adjusting the statistical maneuvers used in these types of polling questions. One thing to be aware of though, that non-typical voter that voted for Trump in 2016, that did not respond well to polls or exit polls after voting are still in play. So there’s still going to be an unexpected error that can’t be accounted for in these, because people that are voting for Trump, especially now after everything that’s happened in the past few months, especially with the tense racial issues, aren’t gonna be so forthcoming that they’re voting for Trump. So they might not like to give you that information. And that’s a little bit of what happened in 2016. And I expect we’re seeing a little bit of that in this polling as well.
Brad Means: Is there time? And I guess after listening to your answer, the answer is yes. Is there a time for those polling numbers to change?
Dr. Craig Albert: Absolutely there’s time for them to change. I think President Trump can increase a little bit his numbers, but I think it’s all about the independent voter right now and the moderately conservative. What President Trump needs to do, in the past couple of months what we have seen is the moderate conservative leave support for President Trump and so that’s taking a bit away from not his base, but his core supporters, his base is there, but those more moderates might either vote for candidate Biden or what I’m predicting is that they’ll just stay home because neither candidate is for whom they want to vote, that moderate conservative. So Trump can do things like perhaps show a little bit more understanding or compassion for different groups in American politics. That’s what the moderate conservative is looking for right now. And they don’t think President Trump is doing a good job at that. And so they’re staying away from supporting him. There’s a big, large movement against President Trump within the Republican Party for moderate voters and Black Lives Matters, and president Trump’s response to that is kind of what pushed this group against for voting for Trump. They finally pushed them over the edge with this.
Brad Means: What is their deal with him? Do they think he’s too harsh? Do they think he is mean, can they no longer relate to him? Why is that segment of his support group walking away?
Dr. Craig Albert: It’s two large issues that they have, the first is that he’s not really representing conservative politics. He doesn’t represent what it means to be a conservative, a fiscal conservative, a compassionate conservative in the line of President George W. Bush, who really emphasized that compassion and mercy that group, I’m not speaking for myself, let’s be clear. That group says that President Trump lacks that part. And then the second is they believe he lacks presidential leadership. So, how he frames messages, how he responds to crises, including the latest surge in coronavirus, as well as the racial politics that’s been occurring over the past few months, they say the polls indicate he’s just not showing what they define as presidential leadership. And so that might keep them from voting for him, especially that moderate conservative or that reluctant what I call the reluctant Trump voter, the Republican who didn’t really like Trump in 2016, but that was the Republican candidate. So they voted for him anyways. They might not do that this time.
Brad Means: All right. So you mentioned you have these Trump supporters out there in the United States who don’t really like to take part in polls or surveys. What does that look like? Do they hang up on the poster? Do they screen the call? And if so, why can’t the pollsters document that and say, “Look, here are our percentages, “and here’s a category of folks “who didn’t pick up the phone, “must be the silent Trump supporters, possibly.”
Dr. Craig Albert: They do have ways of calculating all of that. They have ways of calculating how many respondents, they asked for how many replied, how many quit halfway through. And they’ll tell you that if you’ve ever taken a poll prior to going to the polling station, they’ll say this will take 20 minutes to do, do you mind having this survey done and you can hang up there or halfway through. And there’s ways to document that. What Kellyanne Conway was famous in denoting for the 2016 election is that forgotten person, the forgotten voter. And that’s the traditional blue collar union coal miner type of working class individual is Kellyanne Conway’s words in 2016 that typically doesn’t vote and doesn’t respond well to politics or the establishment. And so when asked about polling, they might not provide an answer or they might just lie anyways. And this is something we see in polling data to begin with, and there’s ways to account for it, but it’s not a perfect science. It can’t be a perfect science, but people tend to lie about their income for instance, some people will lie about lie about their age. Some people will lie about their general demographics when it comes down to those particulars.
Brad Means: Let’s take a look at police reform and my question is, do you think that we will ever see anything in the near future? That is when it comes to lawmakers at the federal level, doing something to reform police forces around the country. If you think that that’s necessary and especially the way they’re trained to handle themselves in the streets, it seems like there were efforts, when the protest began, I haven’t heard a ton lately.
Dr. Craig Albert: This is typical for those types of movements in Congress to die down once a political situations, reassess a little bit. I do expect that if the Democrats win the presidency or increase their lead in the House of Representatives or take over the Senate, that you can see, you will expect to see more policing reform nationwide. I expect that they’re trying to get that through now. We have a split Congress and so the Republicans don’t think that police reform is necessarily the solution to everything that’s going on. So there’s a split right now, and we’re in a hyper partisanship age that we’ve talked about before Brad, where you’re either super hard to the right or super hard to the left right now in American politics. And anytime you have those two extremes going against each other, when they’re split pretty evenly in the general population, 50% leaning left, 50% leaning right, their representatives aren’t gonna compromise or come to a principal understanding of what police reform would look like.
Brad Means: Yeah, that probably tackles three or four of my next questions, which have to do with whether we’ll get anything done between now and the end of this year legislatively probably not right?
Dr. Craig Albert: I expect President Trump to push through one more stimulus package concerning coronavirus. He really has to show some strong leadership and something done by September or October that really gives relief to underrepresented populations, to working class individuals, to the middle class, as well, as well as small business owners will really boost Trump’s data into the poll and his chances that reluctant voter will turn up and vote for him on election day. So expect one more round of some type of stimulus package to come through before the election.
Brad Means: So bigger checks then we got last time?
Dr. Craig Albert: I don’t think so. I think more targeted, smaller checks to focus specifically on people who are within a certain income range, probably lower than the last time, but the amount might be more than it was for those targeted interviews.
Brad Means: And do you think special efforts need to be made Dr. Albert to make sure that big businesses, corporations don’t get that stimulus money?
Dr. Craig Albert: Absolutely. This stimulus needs to go. If it’s gonna help economically, the economic security of the United States, and it’s gonna help the people, it has to go to working class, lower middle class individuals, and the small business owners that are struggling, that are hurting. I mean, even as we’re recording this downtown Augusta is suffering from businesses not opening their doors for a couple of weeks because of the surge again in coronavirus. So what are they gonna do if they don’t get money from the federal government, they’re gonna shut down and that’s gonna hurt the local economy, this state economy, ultimately the economy of the United States, which has a trick trickle effect into international world economics and security as well. So in this instance, it’s the federal government’s job to provide some relief, to prevent a national economic catastrophe.
Brad Means: Go back to what you were saying about Augusta again. Do we need to possibly start to get our minds wrapped around the fact that some of our favorite places to shop and eat may never open again?
Dr. Craig Albert: Not only that, but I think that most people in the area need to start recognizing that this pandemic might be a lasting effect and a change to the American way of life. So I think we can affect mask and mask accessories. We can expect that to be a fashion statement for the next several years, until there’s a guaranteed vaccine and until we understand how many strains of coronavirus they are, how likely are they to spread? How do they mutate? What do the antibodies do? Until we understand all of these variables that go into an infectious disease like this, we have to be ready for change, steady progress towards any type of normalcy, but to expect the unexpected and to be prepared for living life in ways that we’re not generally used to and I think that the mayor, as well as the governor are trying to work in stability into this, to balance economic security with personal liberty, rights, and responsibility. So this is a tough political moment for every party, for every political scientist, for every citizen. So I think now more than ever, I think as diligent and virtually citizens, we need to dig deep into realize we need to be patient and responsible and take this very seriously that things are gonna be a little bit different for the next couple of years.
Brad Means: More they sure are. And you just see it and feel it everywhere. Folks, our conversation with political scientist Craig Albert continues in just a moment. We’ll continue to talk about the pandemic and politics. What should we expect as we prepare to cast our votes in the upcoming election on the means report.
Brad Means: Welcome back to the Means Report. Our special guest is Augusta University Political Scientist, Dr. Craig Albert. We were talking about the pandemic and how life really is probably forever changed because of it. Do we start to get some sense of normalcy when and only when there’s a vaccine Dr. Albert?
Dr. Craig Albert: I think so. Unless we have just a mass disappearance of the disease, like we’ve seen in a couple other coronavirus strains in the past where they just seem to disappear. This strain doesn’t seem to be doing that. And so I think the only possible leveler or stable order that we’ll see is when there’s some type of proven vaccine that comes out where people agree to take them. There’s a movement in America right now that that is anti-vaccination in general. And so we can’t develop our herd immunity to even the coronavirus if we have this type of a division within our country about whether or not we can get vaccinated. So I think it takes over something between 80 and 90% to start to develop our herd immunity from the coronavirus. So stability will come when upwards of 90% of the population agrees to take a vaccine that’s been proven effective in clinical trials. And we’re not sure that that’s gonna happen.
Brad Means: If it does though and this question comes really by way of my 17 year old son, Jack, I have to give him credit. If it does happen and its effectiveness is proved. How quickly can the United States get that vaccine? How quickly could we run down to the local doctor and get a shot?
Dr. Craig Albert: It would depend, President Trump or whoever is president at the time that becomes effective, could really increase the delivery method of that and really increase production as well. So you could see a general nationwide vaccination effort within six months of a proven trial.
Brad Means: Do President Trump’s re-election chances hinge upon a vaccine? Maybe not being available, but pre November 3rd for him to be able to say, “Okay, there’s definitely one there now.”
Dr. Craig Albert: I think that’ll help him. I don’t think that’ll necessarily get him elected. I think that a proven vaccine with good clinical results, as well as economic stability being restored to especially rural areas in middle America, the Rust Belt Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and some of the deep South States will help President Trump win re-election. I think if you see either of those lacking, not a vaccine or there being no vaccine or still an increase in economic instability, I think that President Trump will lose his reelection.
Brad Means: All right. Super general question here. How do you ensure that economic stability, other than the government holding our hands through the rest of this, through stimulus packages, how do you say to those regions of the country that you mentioned? You’re gonna be okay, hang in there.
Dr. Craig Albert: It takes good old American, work value and work ethic and ingenuity. You have to return to the starting base and get more inventive and creative and people have to come up with new ideas in this working from home environment to start new small business, to become more economically individualistic and responsible for yourself. If you don’t wanna get government assistance during this time or depending completely on the government. On the other hand, one would have to view this as if we’re in a national war time footing. So in a war time footing like World War II footing, let’s say it becomes the job of the federal government to prop up the economy more than ever because of how much is at stake. And so the way this pandemic has set so many counties and towns and cities down and behind economically, then the true and only tried method of improving or creating economic stability is a nationally federalized handling of the situation and so on. A lot of people don’t like that and you hear a lot of people saying that they don’t want the government to do this, but I don’t know if everybody’s taken into account that even President Trump, who is also generally opposed to this type of federal bailout believes we’re on a war time path against coronavirus. And so part of that war time footing is that the nationalization of the economy to prop it up, to prevent an economic catastrophe from happening.
Brad Means: Can the country be locked down and closed again? Is that possible? Is that doable?
Dr. Craig Albert: I don’t think under President Trump that will happen. I think he’s trying everything he can because we see the economic indicators, the economic numbers that if that goes, if that happens again or it continues, and some of these States and Cities, there’s almost no comeback for the economy of those areas, or at least you’ll see them pushing between five and 10 years to make a full economic recovery.
Brad Means: I asked this question to a couple of the politicians who’ve been on the Means Report lately. I’ll ask you, is this a really prime time right now for somebody to attack our country?
Dr. Craig Albert: I think terrorists are looking at it very hard. And if you get outside of physical attacks and you get in more to cyber attacks, this is where everything is happening right now. We’re seeing an increase attacks from China, Iran, North Korea, social media attacks, even from Russia, information warfare or disinformation campaigns about what is the coronavirus? what are vaccinations? How do they work in our bodies? Russia has a very serious disinformation propaganda campaign going on against the United States right now, where they create botnets and try to trick Americans into believe in different things, to divide us and separate us so that we can’t do anything as a unified country to defeat the pandemic right now, or to even have a unified political response. So this is the most concerning point of view that I have right now for national security is that, the manipulation of data, the manipulation of social media, and they are targeting the United States citizens right now, trying to create division. So we have to guard ourselves and be principled and moderate on our feelings and our reactions to events in the news right now, because some of those are trying to be emotionally amplified, especially by Russia and China, to provoke a response in us, to lash out at our fellow citizens.
Brad Means: So don’t believe most of the stuff you read on Facebook. And if you go into the comments section, maybe go into it with the belief that many of those commenters are not real people?
Dr. Craig Albert: One should always be aware that just because it’s on social media, doesn’t mean it’s factual. And even if it’s reported by a news outlet, that doesn’t mean that everything is 100% guaranteed. So trust, but verify your major news outlets and major stories. And if you’re reading just your friend’s comments, just know that those are your friends and those are their opinions and not necessarily truth and even if it is truth, then we have to learn to moderate our reaction and take our reactions out at the voting booth or in some type of dialogue or discourse. That’s what we have in the Unit, the United States has a democratic discourse. We must learn to speak to each other, even when we don’t like each other’s opinions. I mean, we must respect each other. So in this divided, this is scary time during the pandemic and the racial politics that are going on right now and all the injustices that we’re seeing and the responses to those injustices. State actors from foreign adversaries are taking advantage of this. So we have to be careful in what we read, how we interpret it. And most importantly, how we respond, this is what the enemy wants. If you want to be a good American, a patriot, a virtuous citizen right now don’t respond and lash out against people on social media, because that’s exactly, especially what Russia is looking for you to do.
Brad Means: Just a couple more questions for you, Dr. Albert, what do you think about the upcoming presidential debates? Will they be effective in swaying voter opinion, especially if they’re done virtually, no live audience to react to the one liners, will they still be impactful at all?
Dr. Craig Albert: It depends on what the format will be and when the debates will happen, if they will happen as scheduled as planned, if it will be virtual, President Trump thrives off audience, Joe Biden does better without an audience lately. And so they’ve been trying to increase both their situations with what group they, what method they liked the best and we’re seeing that both are targeting each other for not doing it the other way as well. So you’ll see President Trump’s campaign, arguing or yelling at Joe Biden’s campaign saying that he won’t do live interviews, or he won’t take questions and answers in a town hall forum. And Joe Biden is also criticizing the president for instance, for his restarting of the coronavirus daily briefings or updates saying that he’s using that as a political campaign, as a tool, as a way to get free advertising for instance. And so all the debates are gonna hinge on whether or not people watch them, if anything new happens. And right now what I’m seeing is that most people who are going to vote have their minds made up. So the only thing that I think that President Trump and candidate Biden can do to increase their chances is to get the voter that plans on staying home on their side and that’s gonna take a provocative message. And I’m not sure that’s gonna be something that can be done in a online non-audience type of thing.
Brad Means: Yeah. That seems like a tall order for both candidates. How are things with you at Augusta University? Are you gonna be in front of live human beings teaching anytime soon?
Dr. Craig Albert: Yes. The university is leaving most of that up to each department and each college within the university. They have a multifaceted plan. I’m not getting paid enough to discuss the planning details, but I am very proud to work for a university that’s taking the lives of their students and faculty very seriously, providing daily updates to the faculty and really giving us innovative tools and techniques to learn how to teach properly online and then how to incorporate social distancing within the classrooms. So it’s a wonderful time to, I say this, knowing how terrible everything is, but it’s a wonderful time to be a part of an organization like Augusta University. And I can’t wait to meet my freshmen students coming up in a couple of weeks, virtually and discuss Russian social media operations actually.
Brad Means: I’ll tell you what I look at that brand over your shoulder and on your lapel. It’s got international credibility these days, AU’s breaking some ground during this pandemic.
Dr. Craig Albert: Absolutely leading the response, especially on the medical and infectious disease side. So very happy for our partners downtown on the downtown campus. I’m on the Summerville campus. So it’s a great time to be a Jaguar.
Brad Means: It sure is. Dr. Craig Albert, a great time to have you on the Means Report. Thank you for your expertise and please stay healthy and safe.
Dr. Craig Albert: Thank you, you too.
Brad Means: Thanks a lot, sir.