How Coronavirus is going to impact the elections | Three Things Thursday

Brett Maney
Senior Communications Manager
Unite America

Happy February! And if you are one of the estimated 157,000 Americans who are born on Leap Day -- Happy (early) Birthday! 

Onto the things. Here are three things to think about this week: 

  1. Bad incentives begets bad leadership

Last week, our advisory board co-chairs, former Representatives Jason Altmire (D) and Carlos Curbelo (R) were on CSPAN’s Washington Journal to talk about why fixing our political system should be the top of everyone's priority list. Here’s a quick highlight of what they said: 

Altmire: “It's not about what party you belong to, it's about do you want a functioning government? Do you want people who can work together? Who can compromise, come to consensus, and get things done? And unfortunately, our electoral system incentivizes the election of people who are not just incapable of working together, but penalized for compromising.” 

Curbelo: "No matter if you’re a Republican, a Democrat, or a independent: whatever issue you care about -- whether it's infrastructure, education, the debt, healthcare -- whatever it is, you need a congress where people can sit down and figure out solutions for better outcomes on all of those issues. But under the current system, as we can see, what people prefer to do is to bicker and fight and posture and to say radical things that will get them on television.” 

  1. Coronavirus is coming for the US [elections]

In addition to being a serious risk to public health and the economy, coronavirus may also pose a serious threat to our democratic institutions. Imagine that come election day, your community is effectively shut down from the virus. There aren’t enough poll watchers to man the voting centers, and nobody wants to show up out of fear of transmission. Should the election happen anyway, even though turnout is suppressed? Or do we postpone the election instead? 

Surprisingly, only a few states have an answer for the question, meaning we could be facing a scene of chaos come November 4th, as some states report historically low-turnout elections, others are days or weeks delayed in reporting, while some keep on as normal. 

The author's solution? Vote by mail, which allows voters to receive their ballots at home, and vote, regardless of whether they’re healthy or sick. It cuts down on the public health concern while also ensuring that the election continues in a way that’s secure, representative, and convenient for all.

  1. A note: those who disagree with you are not your enemy

We see it all the time on social media: no matter the post, there’s someone calling us a “DEMONcrat” or a “TRUMP TRAITOR”. And it should come as no surprise (to anyone, hopefully) that this sort of partisan-vilification is terrible for our political system, and our country. 

A disagreement of opinion does not mean that the other side is evil or out to destroy our country; in fact, our political system depends on both parties having trust that the other side has valid reason and intention behind what they do. As author Charles Lipson says, “Parties must see the competition as legitimate even amid vigorous disagreement on ideas. This shared sense is a load-bearing wall for democracy.”

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a digging-in from either side, determined that their path is the only true path of justice, and that their solutions are the only solutions. It shouldn’t be a calamitous event if the other side wins, because (in theory) we should have faith in our elected officials to come together to work on behalf of the common good. The debate between big government and small government was never supposed to get this divisive. It’s a political stance, not a personal one. 

Wash your hands, cover your mouth, and wish any Leap Year babies you know a very happy birthday. 

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