Can we think of a better way to spend $26 million dollars | Three Things Thursday

Brett Maney
Senior Communications Manager
Unite America
Team
8.13.2020


This tweet got me thinking. 

For those of you who don’t know, that’s Joe Biden’s press secretary. In the 24 hours since they announced Kamala Harris as the vice president nominee, the Biden campaign raised 26 million dollars. 

It got me thinking: that’s a helluva lot of money. 

At the very least, that’s hundreds of thousands of Americans who are giving their hard-earned money to a presidential candidate who may or may not win the election. They’re giving their money to fuel ads, consultants, focus groups, and salaries of people who will try to convince the majority of the population (or at least, the majority of the population in swing states) that the Democrat’s vision for the next four years is the right one. 

The crazy part is that by the time November rolls around, we’ll likely see more than $2 billion dollars spent on the presidential election alone.

Meanwhile, millions of Americans are out of work. Thousands more face economic uncertainty. And Congress can’t get it together long enough to make a deal on a stimulus bill. 

The system is broken. So why do we keep fueling it? 

This week’s big thing: there might be a better way for philanthropists to spend money.

Now onto the three things. 

  1. In case you didn’t get the hint

Unite America board members Marc Merrill and Kathryn Murdoch published a piece in Fortune about political philanthropy: the nonpartisan commitment of financial resources to reform organizations, campaigns, and candidates working within the political system to foster a more representative and functional government.

“Regardless of which party prevails in November’s election, the misaligned incentives between governing in the public interest and getting reelected will remain in place, absent fundamental reform,” they write. “The result will be continuing political dysfunction and inability to plan for entirely predictable crises, from our changing climate to our growing federal debt.

Instead of continuing to fund a broken system, Murdoch and Merrill argue that the next “big bet” that philanthropists must make is on political reform to repair our broken system. We’ve seen reform happen before; it’s on us to see it happens again.

  1. Yes, Americans actually do want to vote by mail

In a new blog this week, we break down a 50-state study from researchers from Northeastern University, Harvard University, Rutgers University, and Northwestern University, who looked at how voters actually feel about voting at home. 

Unsurprisingly, they support expanding vote by mail (64% of Americans, to be precise). 

The mandate for policymakers is clear: Americans want to vote, and they want to vote safely, from home. And unless action to fund a vote at home election is taken soon, our postal service, our county clerks, and our elections are going to be underwater. Check out our blog here.

  1. Politics happen behind the scenes too

Partisan gerrymandering is one of the biggest scourges on our democracy today. Self-interested politicians, eager to maximize their own power while minimizing the power of their opposition, are allowed to draw congressional and state district maps, and in doing so, create a system where some voters’ voices matter more than others. 

In a column for the New York Times this week, Thomas Edsall breaks down how gerrymandering has created an inherent inequality in states throughout the union. Instead of one person, one vote, Republicans and Democrats have created a system in which voters’ voices are purposefully wasted, while others have an outsized influence. 

With a census upon us, the time to act is now. In places like Virginia, voters have the chance to end partisan gerrymandering by putting the redistricting process in the hands of a nonpartisan redistricting commission. Learn more about independent redistricting commissions here.

BONUS: Some fun reads

Daily, I get questions from people asking what news sources people should be checking out, and what resources are out there for people looking to learn more. On a semi regular basis, I like to use Three Things to share those out with you. 

I’ve already told you about my love of The Fulcrum, and Ground News’s Blindspot newsletter. Adding to that list, Tangle is a newsletter that breaks down the biggest stories and presents the best sides from either side. Allsides presents readers with multiple stories from across the bias spectrum on the same topic. I highly encourage everyone to sign up for these newsletters!

If you’re looking for other pieces to show people to get them engaged in nonpartisan political reform, I encourage you to check out UnRepresented, a documentary featuring our very own Nick Troiano. New this week is a film called Stars and Strife, which breaks down the vitriol in the US to understand how we can move forward to put country over party. It’s available to watch VOD, and would make a terrific weekend watch.


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