(WEHT) — As the 2020 presidental election approaches, Brad Byrd talked to Dr. Richard Maass, an associate professor of political science at the University of Evansville, about mail in ballots, the election process, the candidates and more.


Brad Byrd: Welcome to InDEPTH. Tonight we’re battling COVID-19 on two fronts, of course the tragedy of the loss of life and the horrific impact on the economy. But there is a third front of sorts our process of electing our leaders. Joining me tonight is our guest political analyst, Dr. Richard Maass. He’s an associate professor of political science at the University of Evansville, Dr. Maass, as COVID-19 continues to impact millions of voters and with a potential second outbreak coming as winter approaches is our election process in trouble?

Richard Maass: Well there was a point back in late January or February when strong federal leadership might have been able to get the wheels turning for testing to be widespread by this point, putting us on track more like Germany is right now to start reopening. But this ship has really sailed on that a long time ago. And with states more or less left on their own to respond we’ve seen in varying degrees of success, and in a country like the US where people travel a lot, that basically ensures that we’re going to be stuck with this come November. So whether there’s a second, you know, crest around that time, or whether it’s just sort of muddling along at the top of the crest where we are now. Certainly, it’ll still be around when the elections come. And so going to a polling place will represent a health risk. There’s just no two ways around that.

BB: For Joe Biden, the campaign has been relegated for the most part to social media. Is that a major problem for the former VP and especially with the possibility the conventions both on the GOP side and on the Democratic side may look completely different than what we’re used to?

RM: Well, I think that certainly Joe Biden would like to be out there shaking hands and you know, getting good face time with donors and with voters. But actually, I’m not sure that it’s been such a bad thing for him. In particular, Because President Trump’s press conferences have received so much attention and really help to suppress, I think his rally around the flag effect from this crisis, that by the time that the conventions might come, that’s another opportunity where President Trump would probably use it like one of his rallies, I would really like to have that happen. If that’s compromised in any way, you might actually see it hurt Trump more than Biden.

BB: And speaking of those press briefings, are they helping the president keep his base or are they possibly hurting him in that regard?

RM: Well, it’s really interesting because the media in general, especially early on was giving him so much coverage of those briefings. there clearly was a strategy on his part to get his face in front of the cameras as much as possible, and it was working. The problem is that the things he was saying, were revealing to voters across the country how little he knows about the coronavirus and how willing he is to step in front of scientists on the issue, which doesn’t really breed public trust and the president. So I think those clearly have been a step back at this point. Really, maybe helping Biden by by extension.

BB: We’ve been talking a lot about mail in ballots in this country and absentee ballots they’ve been around forever. But could this be an election where mail in ballots may be the norm, especially in the dynamics of this, a pandemic?

RM: Well, certainly, in order for people to vote without having to risk their health, Maryland ballots are basically the way to do that. And even here in Indiana, we’ve seen the extension of absentee balloting without any sort of need for an excuse for the primary. A lot of states have adopted that for the general election as well. And certainly in this circumstance, that’s going to be something that is going to be a pretty necessary public measure to to protect public health.

BB: And we’ve been keeping a close eye on what’s happening in Kentucky. How difficult will this be this year for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell?

RM: Well, I would never necessarily bet against someone who’s been in the Senate for 35 years. But Amy McGrath has certainly emerged as a strong challenger, and just was reported recently that she outraised McConnell a significant amount over the first quarter of this year. And they have about equal cash on hand, I believe at the moment so no question that it’s going to be a tough race for him. And, you know, he’s worked so hard to hitch his wagon to President Trump, that if the public sees the president in a negative light comes a general election that might help to drag down McConnell a bit as well.

BB: And of course, your expertise. Being an Associate Professor of Political Sciences in the international relationship between the US and other countries in your new book is called The Picky Eagle. Briefly give me a synopsis of that book, Dr. Moss.

RM: Well, thanks. In The Picky Eagle, I basically asked why the United States expanded westward to the Pacific, but not north into Canada, south into Mexico or to Cuba or other islands. And it turns out that it wasn’t that the US respected other country’s sovereignty. It wasn’t that it accepted all of the profitable opportunities. It was that US leaders basically decided for reasons of democracy, democratic politics and xenophobia interacting together, that they didn’t want to let populations they saw an alien help self govern within the United States. They didn’t want to give them the vote. And so unlike most great powers in history, US leaders, targeted the sparsely populated lands and basically decided to leave other societies on their own.

BB: All right, Dr. Richard Maass, thank you so much for talking with us tonight. Enjoy talking to you. Hopefully we can get you back on and we’ve got many things to discuss in this most bizarre year. And thank you so much for joining us tonight.