May 14, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us painful lessons; the weaknesses in society’s infrastructure have been compounded in this crisis. Growing political polarization in the US has continued since the 2016 divisive presidential election and is undermining our ability to unite as a country to face a deadly out-of-control disease.
The divisions we see over the response to COVID-19, whether it be the President attacking governors or armed protesters irrationally arguing for their freedom to infect other people, are the symptoms of a much greater illness destroying our democracy. Armed protestors instigated by Koch-financed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in Michigan break the law with no repercussions. The US Supreme Court forces Wisconsin voters to risk their lives to vote in concentrated crowds as hundreds of polling stations are closed. The US Attorney General has made the Justice Department the political arm of the President.
The polarization playing out in our communities goes beyond cultural wars and reflects the systematic erosion of our democracy. Five major threats to our democracy are:
- Money has taken over politics since the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United. Outside wealthy interest groups underwrite campaigns in return for legislative action once elected.
- Gerrymandering allows the party in power to blatantly redistrict congressional maps to favor one political party. In Ohio, Republicans won 57% of the vote in 2016 but secured 75% of the state’s congressional seats.
- Voter suppression and the weakening of the Voting Rights Act. In 2019, the State of Ohio acted to take 235,000 people off the voting rolls, largely for not voting in previous elections. Activists were able to show that nearly 20%, or 40,000 voters, should not have been on the list even by the state’s own rules.
- The Electoral College undermines one person, one vote as not all votes count equally. The system gives disproportionate power to rural, mostly white states like Wyoming and to swing states that are also disproportionately white.
- Russian influence in democratic elections through popular fake accounts in social media that twist public opinion and through direct efforts to hack electronic voting. According to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Russia is stepping up its effort to influence the 2020 election from harder-to-detect servers within the US. Counter measures by government and social media companies are almost nonexistent.
Together, these threats have been so extensive that we are no longer considered a leader of free speech, free elections, or a stable democracy. On the world stage, our disorganized and contentious response to the coronavirus has dumbfounded our allies, who now pity us.
The pandemic has shut us down, forcing us to rethink who we are. If we leverage this crisis as a wake-up call, we can potentially restore democracy. How? First, we must fight for reform. There are known actions to correct each of the above threats. We must come together to stand up against the interests of a small minority of wealthy elites that continue efforts to increase their power and wealth.
Second, we must stand up and protest. Unfortunately, in the face of the onslaught of negative changes happening, we have been knocked back and largely out organized. As the saying goes, “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.” Protest works. Chenoweth and Stephan were skeptics until their research found that nonviolent civil resistance is unequivocally effective in producing social change.
Finally, we must vote and ensure the vote of others. Rarely does the ideal candidate end up on top; politics is a process of compromise. Refusing to vote is not a protest but an exercise in giving up power that people sacrificed their life for all citizens to have.
We at the Community Innovation Network are committed to build inclusive communities of healing and equity. To go back to normal is to go back to disenfranchisement and the rule of the wealthy. Calling it out is only the beginning—we must act now. If not us, who? If not now, when?
The next issue will focus on the social aspects of our current crisis and steps we can take to build bridges across differences for social connection.
作者：Mark Chupp 翻译：崔馨元
- 自从最高法院在《公民联盟》(Citizens United)一案中做出裁决以来，金钱已经取代了政治。外部富裕的利益集团资助竞选活动，以换取一旦当选后的立法行动。
- 俄罗斯通过社交媒体上的虚假账号影响民主选举，扭曲公众舆论，并直接入侵电子投票系统。美国参议院情报委员会(Senate Intelligence Committee)表示，俄罗斯正加大力度，从美国境内更难检测的服务器影响2020年大选。政府和社交媒体公司的应对措施几乎不存在。
我们在the Community Innovation Network致力于建设有治愈力、公正和有包容性的社区。说出来仅仅是个开始-我们必须现在就行动。如果不是我们，是谁?如果不是现在，什么时候?