Augusta, Ga. (WJBF) - The Means Report has some of the brightest young minds in Augusta, Georgia and the surrounding area on the set this week. It is all about politics, folks. Timely, because here we are basically on the eve of the midterm elections. And we want to look at politics, how they are now versus perhaps how they used to be. Also, the political climate, it's different than it used to be. Is it not? Feels a little bit more heated at times, that's for sure. Especially in recent weeks. And then fact versus fiction. Especially when it comes to the messages that bombard us each day. How do we separate the two? How do we know what to believe, and what to blow off?
Brad Means: We're going to get into all of that today with our resident political scientist who does so much more than just study politic science, Dr. Craig Albert, of Augusta University. Dr. Albert, thank you for being with me again.
Dr. Craig Albert: Of course, it's my honor, thanks for having us.
Brad Means: Well it is our honor because he breaks things down, folks as you know, and makes them very easy to understand. And look who Dr. Albert brought with him today, several juniors and seniors from Augusta University. We have Diedre, we have Ledarius in the front row, we have Mary-Kate, and we have Joshua in the back row. And we want to find out what they think when it comes to the political process. Because young people and Dr. Albert, as you know, and you're a young person, too. But, not many young people vote a lot of times. A lot of times it's the people 45, 50 and over that decide who our leaders are going to be. And so, I'll start with you Dr. Albert. Why is that? Why the overall lack of motivation for young folks to go to the polls?
Dr. Craig Albert: Most of all, they have too much on their mind, other than politics. They're trying to get their career started, perhaps their family started. They're trying to get through school. So politics, though they pay attention to it, especially the Millennials and Generation Zs. They are paying more attention to it, but to make them go from paying attention to it to the voting booth when they have so many other concerns and just starting out in life, is a dire task to make them go.
Brad Means: Let me just sorta go around the room here. LeDarius, starting with you. My guess is that you all have each had an opportunity to vote in one presidential election at this point in your lives?
LeDarius Scott: Right.
Brad Means: Go back to when you were 18, and it doesn't have to be presidential politics, just politics in general. Go back to when you had that first opportunity. First of all, did you take it and vote as an 18 year old? And second of all, when did you start realizing how you might vote?
LeDarius Scott: So, I did vote, and you know, at that particular period in time, I wasn't always clear on everything that was going on. And our generation, with social media, and the fake news and everything that's going on. You hear so many stories and so many opinions about everything. Basically, you have to ground yourself and in your own time, figure out the candidates and their platforms and what they stand for. And go out to the poll and try to make the best decision on what you think is right.
Brad Means: All right, great points by you. But Diedre, how do you process all of that? Ledarius made it sound easy, study the candidates, learn their platforms, make your decision. But there are so many messages coming at you, how do you figure it all out?
Diedre Howell: I think the problem with that today is that social media is so prevalent in our time and a lot of people tend to get their news from there. And they don't like to go and actually do the research, or take the time out to do that. So, they think it's just easier to, hey I'm gonna get my news from Instagram, this is how I feel about that candidate. And maybe I'm just not gonna vote, or maybe I'm gonna vote for them because this is what was presented to me. But they don't really look at how it's gonna affect them in the long run. So I think that's our main problem right now.
Brad Means: What about you Mary-Kate, does it feel like things are coming at you too fast and furious and it's tough to figure out what the real messages are?
Mary-Kate Layton: Of course I think it's difficult, but I think it's also a, it's expected to be difficult.
Brad Means: Sure, it is. What about you, Joshua, how do you cut through all the noise and make a, and vote the way your heart wants you to vote?
Joshua LaFavor: I think after so much social media has become a part of our lives over the past few years, eventually I've just gotten to the point where I don't look at social media for my news. I will go to the other websites, go to Fox News, go to CNN, kinda see what is each side saying about the different things. And as I look over these, you kinda, you know each side has their own bias. But you gotta try to cut through that. I know that one issue, also, too for people my age, is the issue of, they're not feeling like they're informed, and so they don't feel like they're qualified to vote.
Brad Means: Mary-Kate, let me go back to you and ask about how much influence your family has on your political leanings, as much as you might have political leanings at your young age. But, does growing up and listening to mom and dad and the grandparents, did that affect how you turned out, so far?
Mary-Kate Layton: Absolutely, I think that was probably the number one factor for my political views.
Brad Means: You think it's good for a parent to express their political views? Or to just, say, hey I'm not trying to influence you, but here's what I think? You know what I'm saying? Sometimes I am not sure in my own home if I should hold back because I don't want to, I want my sons to make their own decisions. Should parents be forthright when it comes to their views?
Mary-Kate Layton: I think they should be, but they should also be respectful. And I think as a young person you should see that that is mom and dad's view, but that also, you're an adult now, and you have to come up with your own views.
Brad Means: You know it's interesting, Dr. Albert, to hear these folks talk about the way that they are reached by the politicians and by the people who are sending out those messages, a lot of social media. A lot of things that are send out via technology. Is that the way things are now? Is that the way that the people who are trying to send those messages, know that they're gonna get these folks?
Dr. Craig Albert: For this generation, yes. Obviously if you're above 50 or so, social media isn't the biggest influencer. You're still traditionally a T.V. watcher, a news watcher, a newspaper reader actually. But for Generation Z, the generation after this, and for generation, the Millennials, social media is the way to go. This is one of the catalysts for President Trump, he knows this. He goes beyond the reach of the traditional news outlets and goes just to social media. And he reaches 50, 60, 70 million people every time he Tweets or Instagrams something.
Brad Means: What about the political climate that we're in right now? I'm gonna ask all four of you about that. It has felt uncomfortable and controversial and heated, especially lately, how does impact your political views, or your motivation to go vote? LeDarius, I will begin with you. Does it make you want to get more involved with the political process, or turn it off?
LeDarius Scott: I think the political climate has, in a way, excited my generation to actually go out and vote. Somehow politics has become almost like pop culture, you know it's a part of our every day lives now. We see it on the news, we open our phone, and we open our social media applications, and that's the first thing that we see. So, I think the political climate, even though it may be seen as a negative thing in our current status as a country, is actually greatly benefiting my generation to go out and vote.
Brad Means: How about you Diedre, do you all talk about things like this when the grownups are gone, and y'all are just sitting around chatting? Is politics a hot topic?
Diedre Howell: Definitely because, with the older generation, they just, they tell it to you like it is. They don't want to hear all the fluffy that we want to talk about. But I think that young people are more in depth. They want to know, like as Dr. Albert said, how is this gonna affect our livelihood, getting a job after college, starting a family? And I think that's what we're really focused on as young people right now. I'm a senior and I'll be moving out into the world pretty soon, and that's what I'm looking towards. This is why I vote. Because this is gonna affect me, it's gonna affect how I live my life. So I really encourage everyone to take part of this action.
Brad Means: How about you Mary-Kate? I came out of those Kavanaugh hearings stressed out. I found that it upset me, and that it affected my mood. And I wanted to turn away from politics, and just block it all out. How does that controversy, and that heated atmosphere affect you?
Mary-Kate Layton: I think it's stressful, but I also think it motivates me to become involved. And to, to really think about, and to really formulate how I think and feel, and why. And then put it out there.
Brad Means: How about you Joshua, same kind of feeling, that it makes you want to jump into it and change things?
Joshua LaFavor: I think the biggest thing it puts in my heart is the desire for unity. We see so much polarization on either side. And, but I know growing up and being at Augusta University, we have people on both ends of the aisle. But these are my friends. I may have different political views than I do, but I want unity with my friends. I want to be able to work together to make our country better, to heal these riffs that are there between, you know African Americans and caucasians in America. Just all of these issues, there's these riffs and these wounds. I really feel like our generation needs to step up and see unity and healing together.
Brad Means: We're taking a look, folks, at what it takes to reach our younger voters. What it takes to motivate them to go to the polls. And conversely, what it takes to maybe prevent them from going to the polls. It's a special Means Report, our panel from Augusta University will be right back in just a moment.
Brad Means: Welcome back to The Means Report. As we continue our special discussion on politics, especially as it pertains to young people. They don't, as a rule, vote as much as older folks do. We're trying to find out why. Trying to find out what motivates these folks, and what they want when it comes to our political leaders. Dr. Craig Albert, political scientist at Augusta University is leading this group of young people. Ledarius, Diedre, Mary-Kate, and Joshua. Some great insights in our first segment. And I'm certain that's going to continue now. But Dr. Albert, let me ask you, how you avoid shaping their political leanings when you teach? How do you keep it right down the middle?
Dr. Craig Albert: I try to be a devil's advocate. So I try to challenge them as much as I can. And to bring a remarkable amount of humor into the classroom, so they can't ever tell when I'm giving my own personal view, or when I'm just being humorous, or when I'm just being a devil's advocate. So I teach through the Socratic dialogue which is really just questioning everything. 'Cause I don't want to give them a political view. It's not my job to influence them that way. It's my job to teach them how to think for themselves, how to use evidence, how to look at evidence and say is this valuable, is this reliable? What can I do with this? And to make their own informed decision. And to tell everybody how and why they made that decision.
Brad Means: I think that's a great approach. And also, back to the humor, Dr. Albert has been taking more selfies with his students than the students have with him. I thought it would be reversed. But he fits right in, doesn't he? Joshua, let me ask you this question about politics and politicians in general. I've heard what y'all sort of hope happens with America. Is there a perfect politician? Is there something that he or she can say to you that would make you say, that's it, that's the person I've been looking for?
Joshua LaFavor: Well if Dr. Albert gives me an A, I mean I'd vote for him.
Brad Means: Of course you would, you're no fool.
Joshua LaFavor: Looking at the politics, I think one of the things that we have seen a shift in in the older generations, is it's a more utilitarian approach. It's what candidate is going to vote for the policies I want to see happen? I think I'm seeing in my generation more of shift towards more of a virtue ethics approach. Which candidate has the most integrity? Which candidate has the most honor in how they are handling this? Are they attacking their other candidates? Or are they saying, this is what I stand for, this is my character? And I think that we're seeing kind of a shift more towards virtue as opposed to utilitarianism there. And s-
Brad Means: How about, I'm sorry Joshua. How about you Mary-Kate? Does it have to be someone who reflects your values to the T?
Mary-Kate Layton: No I don't think they have to reflect my values, but I think that they need to be relatable. And you need to, I look for people that are, that I can see have good opinions and good views, because they believe that they're good opinions and good views. And I think that a good politician is someone that isn't so focused on their political party, but more on like, just making America better. And helping the American people as a whole. Rather than dividing them.
Brad Means: That's a great point, and I wanted to get to that. So I'll just transition into that now. Does political party matter? Or are you, as Mary-Kate said, Diedre, just listening to the candidate and their views, no matter that there's a D or an R by their name, for Democrat or Republican?
Diedre Howell: I'm definitely looking at the candidate and what they can bring to the table for me. As we have studied in Dr. Albert's class, you know, humans are selfish by nature. So there's no perfect politician. I just want someone who is aware of the issues that are relatable to me, yes, but that are relatable to the country as a whole. Where the majority of people can, you know they can receive benefit from that.
Brad Means: Sure.
Diedre Howell: I just want them to take that into consideration. Not bring their own selfish views, or as Joshua said, not just standing up there and attacking the other opponent. Just getting the views across that people want.
Brad Means: Does political party matter to you, LeDarius? A lot of people will see that Republican or Democrat affiliation, and choose right then whether or not to shut someone out.
LeDarius Scott: Right. It's hard to remove yourself from that as we alluded to earlier, we're socialized by our parents to lean a certain way, whether that's left or right. But you have to remove yourself from that and try to make the best decision. Politics is leading with selfless intention. So you're looking for someone that puts the people that they want to represent before their party and before themselves.
Brad Means: LeDarius, I'll stay with you, and I'll just work my way back around the room. What do you think about protestors? I don't remember seeing protests like we've seen in recent years. What's that do to you, or for you, or not?
LeDarius Scott: I think again, you know, as we alluded to earlier with the political climate, people are interested in vocalizing their opinions, regardless of what people may think. You know it's a right that we all have, guaranteed by our Constitution, our Bill of Rights. People are using that and they're expressing to those that represent us that, if they're happy, they'll express that. If they're not happy, they're going to express that. And they're not doing it via email or via phone call, they're coming to your front steps to show you how they feel about things.
Brad Means: They sure are.
LeDarius Scott: And again, it all is a byproduct of our political climate. People want to express their concerns, and not do it passively.
Brad Means: Does it bother you, does it affect you in any way, Diedre, when you see people in the streets marching and yelling?
Diedre Howell: It doesn't bother me. It bothers me when they protest but then they don't vote.
Brad Means: Yeah.
Diedre Howell: It does not add up. You can not just do one action and not do the other. Yes, protesting is fine. Yes you want to get your voice heard. That's what we're for. But if you're not going to the polls, if you're not voting to put these people in office that are gonna make the change for you, then you're wasting your time.
Brad Means: Talk to me about protestors, Mary-Kate, and have you ever seen someone, as Diedre described, just rant and yell and stomp their feet, and not do anything about it?
Mary-Kate Layton: Of course, yeah, I think there's people that do that. And it's well within their right to do that. I definitely respect protestors. And I think the key though, is if it's constructive, and if it's peaceful. And if people are willing to compromise.
Brad Means: Would you ever go to the streets, Joshua, if you disagreed with something?
Joshua LaFavor: Possibly, depending on what the issue would be. However, one of the issues I see with protesting, and while it is a right, and something that I can definitely understand the reason for, it's so easy to turn that into slogans. It's so easy to bypass rational discourse, bypass actual debate, and you're just screaming at people. And so I think that, you know it's a good way for politicians to see this is a care and a concern of the populous. But I don't see real policy coming out of protesting. Because it's just slogans that are put on a board.
Brad Means: Dr. Albert, we saw those ladies yelling at the Senator in the elevator during the Kavanaugh hearings, and we think that those ladies confronting the Senator made him, at least, press the pause button on the process for a minute. Do those protests typically have instant results like that?
Dr. Craig Albert: I think so when it's in that nature. When you're, the way the confronted Senator Flake out of Arizona, I believe it is. I mean he was going back to his office to make a decision on how he was going to vote. And they were very personable about how what he was about to do was going to affect their lives. Not just their lives, but their children's lives, for equal rights across the nation, what they were concerned about. So, when you get in their face inside the Capital Building, and you're making a direct, if you went to the capital to protest, you're gonna vote afterwards. So there's a difference between some type of social media protesting, or some type of protesting in front of a store, if you're trying to boycott something. Versus you made the trip with your family inside the Capital Building to make sure that your voice was heard, and that everybody knows what your voice is, that's a different type of protesting.
Brad Means: How much of it is real? How much of it is really protesting versus people being paid to protest?
Dr. Craig Albert: Certainly, and that's unfortunately, we do have paid protestors by both sides, at certain types of events. And in this instance, we definitely had some directing going on. But I think in all major protests, you're gonna have some kind of direction going on, where should you stand, how should you go and protest? How should you do it? Because that's a social movement. That makes sense to go and do that. Now if they weren't gonna go there, and you're paying people off the streets, or forming some kind of organization just to go protest, I'm not sure we can understand their political motivations accurately. And that actually hurts the candidates and the policies that are going on. If you're just paid to protest, that's not gonna show up at the voting booth. So you might have a skewed perception of how something is gonna turn out if you use that type of protestors.
Brad Means: LeDarius, what's the state of our country right now? Some people would say the climate is too hot, we're heading toward a tipping point. Violence might ensue. Are you that worried about The United States of America?
LeDarius Scott: I think the beauty of America is that it's a political experiment, unlike anything we've ever seen in history. Different cultures, different people coming together and trying to unify. And of course you're gonna have your bumps in the road when that happens. People of different ideologies and different thought patterns coming together, and you're gonna have your conflictions. But again, I think the beauty of America is that we all have the right to do so, regardless of it, we can still, we can disagree, but we can still go out to lunch the next day and have a great conversation with one another. And I think that's really the beauty of it all. So I don't think the political climate in any way, and again, the negativity is there, but I think it's really benefiting us and getting us engaged with politics.
Brad Means: Will you run for something one day?
LeDarius Scott: I hope to. I really want to. I plan, I interned at Mayor Davis' office last summer for 10 weeks. So I love local politics. I know that our, we tend to want to vote for the president, but the change happens at the local level.
Brad Means: It sure does.
LeDarius Scott: And I really want to impact change here within the city.
Brad Means: Diedre, y'all are all so young, but you're adults. You're young adults. And you're supposed to have hope, you're not supposed to be skeptical or cynical at your age. Do you have hope?
Diedre Howell: Definitely, I have hope. You should have hope, because you need to remain positive in such a negative world. I think people just need to understand that government and politics was not made to be smooth. There's gonna be friction. And that's how the work gets done. So people should definitely, as Ledarius said, start voting in your cities, because that's where the change is gonna happen. And you keep pushing and keep pushing until you get to a higher level. And then you will definitely see some type of change or see that someone is listening to your voice. I think a lot of people just feel like their voices are not heard.
Brad Means: Same question for you, Mary-Kate. How do you handle the political process as your life really gets underway when college is behind you?
Mary-Kate Layton: I think you just have to continue to learn, and continue to educate yourself. And to be interested in it because it does affect your life. And it affects the people that you love and the people that you're around.
Brad Means: Joshua, how do you keep it going? I mean, you're so dialed in, every one of you. And I think our audience would agree, you're so dialed in right now, and in tune to what's going on. Your answers blow me away. How do you keep this going after the political science classes are over, and after you're not shoulder to shoulder with your peers every day at school?
Joshua LaFavor: Well I really like what Ledarius said, it's about having lunch afterwards. It's about having that civility there. I think that's one of the things that, when we talk about hope, that is what gives me hope. When we talk about looking at where is the future of the country headed? If we continue on this of, you're a Democrat, you're a Republican, I hate you, you hate me. There's not gonna be hope anymore. I mean the experiment, the American experiment will fail if we do not show love and compassion and care for one another. And so I think that, that's what gives me hope is going and having lunch with someone of the opposite side. And being able to love them as a person, regardless of their political views.
Brad Means: Dr. Albert, we have about 11 seconds. I think our country's in good hands.
Dr. Craig Albert: I think so, they make me proud every day.
Brad Means: Well they make me proud too, to be associated with you, and to know that you're right down the street at Augusta University. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being on The Means Report today.
- Thank you.
Brad Means: Absolutely wonderful responses from our students. That's who's taking over the nation, and you know what, I'm really comfortable with that. We'll be right back.
Brad Means: Welcome back to The Means Report, everybody. We so appreciate you tuning in today. And it looks like that once you cut through all the controversy, and once you wade through all the negativity, you'll find a lot of hope. You'll find a lot of light when it comes to our young people. Our young voters. And if I had one take away to share from this panel that met today, I would say it's this, give them more light, give them more positive messages. Listen to me, the people who disseminate those political social media posts, or who get on T.V. and have the political ads. I think, if I'm hearing them correctly, it's less about what you can say against your opponent, and more about what you can say for yourself, and what you can do to make life better for the people you expect to vote for you. Words of wisdom from our students today.
Won't you help shape future editions of The Means Report? It's easy to go to our social media sites and do so. You can also email us, Marlena Wilson's email is always on, as is mine. All previous episodes of The Means Report are available at WJBF.com. Your influence is appreciated. For Levi, Marlena, and the entire Means Report family, take care.
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