What Listening to All Constituents Means | Three Things Thursday

Unite America

Divisiveness, hatred, and xenophobia have consequences. So do the broken politics and disinformation that fuels them. For thousands of Asian Americans, those consequences have been acutely felt.

Over the last year, there’s been an increase in hate crimes perpetrated against Asian Americans. Senior citizens — our parents and grandparents — have been beaten, harassed, and spit on. 

On Tuesday, six Asian women were among those murdered at massage parlors across Atlanta. 

Racism and violence have no place in our country. We have work to do to build a better democracy that is united in working to end both.

Here’s some things to think about:

  1. Watch the first Korean American Representative from Washington speak out

On the same day she became the first Korean American to preside over the House of Representatives, Representative Marilyn Strickland used her platform to condemn the violence we saw, and continue to see, against Asian people across the country.

“Words matter. Leadership matters. We must all loudly condemn actions and language rooted in fear and bigotry that harms all of us.”

What we choose to call things matter. It translates and disseminates into the actions of the people around us. Right now, Asian Americans are calling on our leaders to do better — to cease stoking racial divisions by using terms like “China Virus” that invites this sort of hatred. Their concerns shouldn’t be ignored.

  1. How how we make sure they can’t ignore their constituents

“Once just a noun, "primary" has become the most powerful verb in American politics,” writes Katherine Gehl for CNN this week. The threat of being primaried has become the invisible hand of our political system, incentivizing elected officials to toe the party line — and creating a system in which broader, more bipartisan appeals can threaten your political career. 

Gehl argues that the traditional partisan primary system needs to go. Instead, it can be replaced with Final-Five Voting (a variant of Final-Four Voting that passed in Alaska). With a nonpartisan primary, and a ranked choice voting general election, elected officials are pushed to listen to all constituents. She writes: 

“The purpose of FFV is not necessarily to change who wins, but to change what the winners are incentivized to do. The message to Congress is do your job or lose your job. Innovate, reach across the aisle whenever it's helpful and come up with real solutions to our problems. Represent a broader swath of your district -- not just the thin layer of polarized party-primary voters -- or you can expect healthy competition in your next general election.”

  1. A bright spot

As New York City prepares for a city-wide use of ranked choice voting in June (potentially the largest use of the system in the country!) voters and election administrators have begun to implement the system with a slew of special elections. 

How do voters feel about the new system so far? Overwhelmingly positive. In exit polling of Queens voters, 80% of voters found “very simple” to use. 

Election reform can often seem massive in scope, when in fact, it’s highly logical and intuitive. Ranking candidates sounds different, but much like ranking favorite movies or foods: simple. 

Our thoughts are with the families of the victims in Atlanta, and with the Asian American community at large. 

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