“[T]he COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything–from how the campaign is conducted to how we vote to what we value. It has canceled conventions, relegated fundraising and campaigning to the digital realm, and forced many states to rapidly change how people get and submit their ballots, with unpredictable and potentially disastrous results. The acute crises have refocused the nation’s attention, bringing issues like public health and economic and racial inequality to the fore and prompting the public to revisit what characteristics it wants in its leaders.”

Election 2020

 

“Napoleon’s propagandistic impulses foreshadow those of several political leaders today. Notably, President Trump in the U.S., President Xi Jinping in China, and President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil have responded to the current plague by constructing narratives that advance their own personal political ambitions. They seek to appear organized and in control in the face of chaos and destruction and to obscure their personal agendas.

But the painting also highlights differences, at least between Napoleon and Trump, and provides poignant political lessons…

Leaders should not exploit epidemics to push their own agendas, but some will surely try to do that. If they cannot resist, they should at least realize they can do so in ways that can help people as much as possible and that advance science rather than ignore it. Leaders can try to divert attention toward only a few particular facts, but history will reveal the fuller truth.”

Paul Klitzman
Read more here!

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The Importance

of Leadership

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“The New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt, elected in 1933, had to confront that crisis, and his response holds lessons we might well heed….

First, confidence in our nation’s leadership is all important. A vast majority of the country believed in Roosevelt, and that allowed him to move ahead. Though FDR was himself a patrician, who came from a moneyed family, he had a sense of empathy for working people…

Second, a sense that our leaders are eager to act to help people and not simply to score political points, is essential…

Finally, a reliance on experts, in a pattern dating back to the Progressive era in the early years of the 20th century, helped during the New Deal and is essential today. The New Deal produced studies and reports on all manner of the nation’s problems with the belief that policy depended on finding accurate facts, and acting accordingly. It was as important then as it is now.”

-Allan M. Winkler
Read more here!

“Several states have responded to the pandemic by making it easier to vote by mail, but that option needs be made even more available. States also need adequate personnel and equipment to ensure that votes cast by mail are fully counted and that voters whose ballots are rejected have the opportunity to appeal, while still providing sanitized polling stations and in-person voting for those who need that option. Finally, a public education campaign is necessary to counter President Trump’s cynical suggestion that a delay in completing the vote tallies and declaring a winner is evidence of fraud.”

-The L.A. Times
Read more here!

 

 "Since the pandemic hit, absentee voting—aka vote by mail and voting at home—has increased as a way for voters to avoid exposure to COVID-19...

While states run the gamut from requiring a voter to provide a reason to vote absentee to sending a ballot to all voters, they all have one thing in common: Some voters vote in person, and others vote at home. In other words, hybrid voting systems are the norm. That means policymakers are balancing the two types of voting, and voters are deciding which is their own best option. With the balance now shifting toward more mail voting, state and local election officials are retooling to accommodate the influx."

-Wendy Underhill
Read more on different state strategies here!

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Election Logistics

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“"While election experts say fraud in mail balloting is slightly more common than in in-person voting, it's still such a minuscule amount it's not statistically meaningful...

Over the past 20 years, they write, more than 250 million ballots have been cast by mail nationwide, while there have been just 143 criminal convictions for election fraud related to mail ballots. That averages out to about one case per state every six or seven years, or a fraud rate of 0.00006%."

-By Miles Parks
Read more here

Media & Misinformation

 

“Misinformation about the current public health crisis—which has either denied the existence of the virus entirely or framed it as an intentional product—has proliferated at an alarming rate. It has also enjoyed the most mainstream attention of any conspiracy theory since the 9/11 truther movement…

While such stories are representative of our particular cultural and political moment, they also continue a longer pattern of misinformation. In particular, American society witnessed an incredible outpouring of unfounded rumors around the influenza pandemic at the tail end of the First World War—a little-known history that can shed light on some of the causes and consequences of today’s coronavirus conspiracy theories.”

-Cameron Givens
Read more here!

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 ““War is the locomotive of history,” said Leon Trotsky in 1922, arguing that social developments that would normally unfold over decades can take place in months when conflict is raging. The coronavirus pandemic is similar in nature, bringing about radical changes to almost every field of human existence in an unusually short space of time.

This is especially true for the field of social media…

Platforms have worked to remove content such as the viral ‘Plandemic’ video which “wrongly claimed a shadowy cabal of elites was using the virus and a potential vaccine to profit and gain power”. They have also clamped down on conspiracy theorists like David Icke when they are seen to cross the line from “general conspiracy theories” — which are allowed — into claims which may actively lead to physical harm such as by encouraging people to ignore public health advice.

These conspiracies do often harm ordinary people, such as a woman I interviewed who had her photos stolen to spread a conspiracy theory about death certificates being manipulated by governments.

Ordinary people play a role in spreading them too — like the people who pretend to be “bots” to wind up their political opponents.”

 

Joey D'Urso
Read more here!

“A number of organizations, including Brill's NewsGuard, aimed at curing what some see as this kind of media literacy problem have popped up since the 2016 election.

 

While well-intentioned, they may be missing the true problem — which is how the platforms allow for bad sensationalist information to go viral, says Peter Pomerantsev, the author of the book This Is Not Propaganda, which details a number of information and influence operations on social media.”

Miles Park
Read more here!
 

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Partisanship & Division

 

“Roosevelt could coin a phrase, as he did when he called on the nation to be the “arsenal of democracy,” and he also knew how to hire able people, who had the confidence of the country, to take the steps necessary to produce everything that was necessary for war, and to help Americans feel that they were involved in the struggle.

“Don’t you know there’s a war on?” was a common refrain, and Americans wanted to do their part…

Consensus and common purpose are therefore absolutely crucial in a time of crisis. So why then are we at such an impasse in our collective response to the Covid-19 crisis now?

Gone are the days when politicians were willing to compromise with one another in the interests of the common good.”

-Allan M. Winkler
Read more here!

“A national survey from Pew Research Center conducted in late April with more 10,000 U.S. adults finds 43% of Americans say they have a great deal of confidence in medical scientists to act in the best interests of the public, up from 35% before the outbreak. A large majority continues to say they have at least a fair amount of confidence in medical scientists…

But trust in medical scientists has turned upward only among Democrats, not Republicans. Fifty-three percent of Democrats and those leaning to the Democratic Party have a great deal of confidence in medical scientists to act in the public interest, up from 37% in January 2019. But among Republicans and those who lean to the GOP, 31% express a great deal of confidence in medical scientists, roughly the same as in 2019 (32%). As a result, the partisan gap in confidence in medical scientists has widened from just 5 percentage points in 2019 to 22 points today. Partisan gaps over trust in medical scientists now echo past Center surveys that found Democrats express far higher trust than Republicans in climate scientists and the information they produce.”
 

Cary Funk and Alec Tyson
Read more here!

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“In sporadic incidents across the country, disputes over emergency measures have turned into shootings, fistfights and beatings. Stories abound of intimidation over masking. And armed right-wing groups have threatened contact tracers and people who they say "snitch" on neighbors and businesses violating health orders.

Researchers who study the links between polarization and violence stress that these incidents are still rare and extreme reactions; polls show that the majority of Americans support and are abiding by distancing measures. But there are fears that the pandemic — especially landing in an election year — has the potential to inflame divisions to dangerous levels if left unchecked.”

Hannah Allam
Read more here!

“In democratic countries, the public is highly responsive to cues sent by political elites whose messages can encourage unity or deepen social cleavages. Because the public relies on these cues for reliable information, it is especially important that elites present a unified message during a crisis. Elites sent such a unified message after the September 11th terrorist attacks, when Republican and Democratic lawmakers issued joint statements reassuring Americans that they were safe and promising rapid retaliation. However, the high levels of partisan polarization observed today among both elites and the mass public in the United States can lead to a fractured national response, as elites send conflicting cues to citizens who are inclined to only be receptive to the messages of co-partisans. In addition, once initial opinions based on these messages are formed, they may be difficult to update with subsequent factual information.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) presents the greatest public health threat and economic challenge in modern history, with the United States having the fastest rate of growth in cases among industrialized nations as of this writing. The severity of this crisis is particularly sensitive to public opinion, given that behavioral change at the individual level is integral to successfully slowing the spread of the virus. Given the high levels of polarization in the American electorate, citizens are less likely to change their behavior in ways that correspond to the consensus of public health experts if there is not a political consensus that these changes are necessary.”

Jon Green, Jared Edgerton, Daniel Naftel, Kelsey Shoub, Skyler J. Cranmer
Read more here!

“Partisanship, not health concerns, is the main driver of whether Americans are social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new study, and researchers say understanding the influence of partisanship is key to developing successful strategies to get people to change their behavior and help tamp down the virus…

“’I am hopeful that people will start to realize what they should have all along: that COVID isn’t partisan. It treats everybody equally,’ [John] Lapinski says. ‘As people understand that, I think it will be good for public health.’”

Penn  Today
Read more here!

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