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This is a problem | Three Things Thursday

Wear a mask, partisan pollution, and the reforms needed to address systematic racism and our broken elections.

Brett Maney
Sr. Communications Manager
July 9, 2020

Our health, science, and society has become politicized. And that’s a problem.

If I can impart one message to you, it’s this: wear a mask. 

There shouldn’t be any controversy around that statement; we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, and health officials and scientists have said that it’s an effective way to slow the spread of the virus. It’s a public health service that we as citizens can provide to one another, and one that will allow us to restart the economy sooner, rather than later. 

Yet like so many things in society today, wearing a mask -- or not -- has become a political index, one that offers a quick cue as to someone’s political leanings. 

With that said, here are three things to read this week. 

  1. Polarization is an oil spill

Despite assurances by doctors and scientists that it’s the healthiest thing to do, wearing a face mask during this pandemic has become a political statement. Go into a store and find the individual not wearing a mask, and I’d bet you think you know who they voted for in 2016. 

In an essay for the libertarian-leaning publication Reason this week, JD Tuccille breaks down a new study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, who examined the social preferences of Americans, and found that polarization is seeping into every part of American society. It’s not a wall preventing us from talking; it’s an environmental disaster.

“As you might guess, it's not a good thing when politics ooze across the landscape like an oil spill to pollute music choices, restaurant preferences, recreational activities, and sports fandom,” writes Tuccille. “This leaves a declining number of activities in which people can engage that don't carry partisan baggage.

  1. Addressing systemic racism through reform

“Do Black lives matter in America?” asks Unite America board member Lisa Rice in a new op-ed in Real Clear Politics. “The answer depends on whom you ask and what day of the week it is.”

Rice draws on her experiences as a black woman, a political strategist, and a voter to urge those who have been protesting to take their frustrations to the ballot box, not only so they can elect the leaders who will represent them, but also so they can voice their support for the reforms that can help transform the political system.

Things like partisan gerrymandering, plurality elections, and closed primaries have for many years helped to diffuse and minimize the voices of minority voters in the country. By loosening the grip of the two parties and opening it up so all voters can have their voices heard, we can create a system that better puts voters first. 

  1. Reform needs to move faster

Finally, Deputy Director of Reforms and Partnerships, Tyler Fisher, writes for the Fulcrum this week about the State of Reform -- an updated paper by the Unite America Institute that grades all 50 states on their adoption of four key reforms. Ranked choice voting, vote at home, independent redistricting committees, and open primaries have the possibility to transform our political system, yet states are slow to adopt these measures. 

Nine states are still failing -- meaning they have adopted none of these reforms -- while another 21 earn just a “D” grade. 

Progress is slow moving, but progress almost always is at first. We’re building the foundations for a movement, similar to women's suffrage or marriage equality. With major reforms on the ballot in Alaska, Massachusetts, Virginia, and potentially North Dakota and Arkansas, our opportunities are growing. Read the full report here.