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Anderson edited "Leveraging: A Political, Economic and Societal Framework" (Springer, 2014), has taught at five universities and ran for the Democratic nomination for a Maryland congressional seat in 2016.
Sen. Bernie Sanders has rejected the idea of meeting one on one with Sen. Joe Manchin to try to resolve their differences over President Biden's $3.5 trillion proposed social services bill. When asked about it last week, Sanders said, "This is not a movie." On the other side, Manchin has not said if he supports the idea. Moreover, President Biden said, jokingly, such a meeting would lead to "homicide."
The current stalemate within the Democratic Party is not primarily a fight between the chairman of the Budget Committee (Sanders) and the centrist (some would say conservative) Democratic linchpin (Manchin). Whoever suggested these two men be put in a room to resolve their conflict may have been thinking about a movie about the 1950s or 1850s.
The reality of this historical drama is that the conflict is not only within the Senate or even centered around the Senate. After all, it was the House Progressive Caucus led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal and members like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who refused to vote in favor of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill until the Senate Democrats, notably Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, supported the $3.5 trillion social services bill.
Even if Sanders and Manchin agreed to a figure, even one as high as $2.75 trillion, that doesn't mean Jayapal and other House progressives would be satisfied — or that Sinema would either.
In short, the conflict is not focused on two powerful men or the Senate. It also concerns powerful women, and it also concerns the House. The very idea that this is a two-man Senate fight is really absurd. Speaker Nancy Pelosi herself is thoroughly immersed in the conflict within her full House Democratic Caucus. If anything, it is the House Progressive Caucus, led by women, that has emerged as the major force in this two-chamber, progressive vs. centrist battle.
Moreover, the idea of putting Sanders and Manchin in a room together, at this stage, is stupid. While it would most likely not lead to homicide, it would probably be a nasty, brutal, loud discussion.
Last week I argued in The Baltimore Sun that House and Senate leaders needed to get together, at Biden's invitation, at Camp David. Indeed, I wrote that Manchin and Ocasio-Cortez needed to "talk under the trees" and be "in nature" outside of Washington. I was not joking. They had a terrible exchange via the media a few weeks ago. It is time for them to meet face to face in an unthreatening environment.
Sanders' outburst reinforces my belief that powerful men and women from both chambers need to join Biden not for a conference table meeting in D.C. but for less structured, more personal interactions ranging from taking a walk to playing shuffleboard.
Do the precise opposite of one-on-one meetings or traditional meetings with two camps represented. Many of the players barely know each other, if they know one another at all. I also argued that the bills in question are not Biden's bills but legislation actually owned by both chambers and the president. And I said make them for five years, not 10. To be sure, the details have to be worked out.
This is 2021 not 1950 or 1850. It's not an old boys' club matter, and there is not going to be a duel. But this drama has a good ending if all parties involved remember that our democracy, thanks to the other party, is on the verge of disintegration. The men and women in powerful positions need to leave their unwillingness to compromise in Washington and head off to Camp David and make the country proud.
It falls on President Biden to issue the invitations.
The centrist and progressive wings of the Democratic Party are either giving birth to a compromise to move President Biden's agenda (and their agendas) forward, or they are strangling each other.
Make no mistake, the drama on Capitol Hill this week is not only or even chiefly about whether Biden's agenda will move forward. The drama is chiefly about the health and direction of the Democratic Party. And although the Republicans of course are also players on the Washington stage — especially concerning the debt ceiling issue and a potential government shutdown — the dominant themes are controlled by the Democrats.
The centrists, especially Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, want the infrastructure bill to be passed by the House and they want a scaled-down version of the social-services-oriented $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill. The progressives, especially the group led by "the Squad "and Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal, want the full $3.5 trillion and a demand that the Senate agree to it before they vote yes on the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
The fighting from afar looks like good old fashioned leveraging and horse trading. We all know that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are making promises and deals behind closed doors and Biden is offering what he can to get what he can.
In this context it is useful to ask the centrists and the progressives if they are relying too much on traditional bargaining leverage and the rigidly defined concepts of their faction.
A more constructive approach at this stage is to employ resource leverage to transform the Democratic Party and better position the president to lead it. With resource leverage, a concept that has become more widely known and used in the last generation, you get the most from the least. With information technology, for example, you get 1 million emails to 1 million potential customers or voters — from one email.
The concept of leverage from ancient physics involves using a minimum input to create a maximum output with a fulcrum of some kind. With resource leverage, the levers may be social or political or economic or psychological rather than physical. Moreover, resources leveraged creatively generate new products, services and brands.
Resource leverage goes beyond traditional physical leverage and traditional bargaining leverage.
The question for the Democrats is what resources can they leverage to transform their factions and their party to serve the nation? Rather than using threats of withholding votes as leverage to get what they want, how can they leverage resources, which includes relationships, to transform their party and our country?
Presumably the solution finds a new center for the Democrats which rejects old concepts about moderation and progressivism. Legislators must break out of their molds and not only compromise but redefine.
Getting from traditional bargaining leverage and negotiations driven by threats to creative resource leveraging is extremely difficult. But greatness requires creativity and imagination and not just dedication and hard negotiating.
The solution, whatever it is, concerns the entire Democratic Party and the nation overall. In truth, any viable solution must address financial leverage as well, since the debt ceiling issue revolves around this third critical concept of leverage.
Indeed, leveraging is not only central to the strategy needed to resolve the crisis, it is central to the content of the crisis itself. This should come as no surprise since leveraging is, at least I have argued, the dominant theme of our time.
If the focus given by the Democrats is on passing the president's agenda, the effort may fail. At the same time, the one person in Washington who can transcend transactional bargaining leverage for transformational resource leverage is President Biden.
Originally published by The 19th.
New research shows girls are being socialized early in life to believe they don't belong in politics.
A research article published this month in the scholarly journal American Political Science Review found that young children perceive politics to be a space dominated by men. Girls' perception of this is enforced as they grow older.
From late 2017 to early 2018, researchers interviewed children around the country to capture their understanding and interest in politics. More than 1,600 1st through 6th graders were handed crayons and paper and asked to draw a political leader at work.
The children were given open-ended prompts to describe what the political leader is doing in their drawings, what words describe them and what such a leader does on a typical day.
The drawings and responses ran the gamut, particularly for the youngest children. But older girls in particular were more likely to draw people with masculine traits. Research assistants sorted responses by noting whether children drew known political leaders, included clothing like skirts or used pronouns in describing the political leaders. They also coded the adjectives children used as masculine traits or feminine traits. (The study states there are limitations to its use of terminology and does not address gender identity or include nonbinary people.)
Women remain underrepresented in elected office, making up just 31 percent percent of statehouses and 26.7 percent of Congress, but researchers argue it doesn't have to be this way. Mirya R. Holman of Tulane University, one of the article's authors, spoke to The 19th about the most surprising aspects of the research and the ways in which early intervention in how society teaches children about politics could make a difference.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Barbara Rodriguez: Why did you set out to explore this topic? Is it underreported?
Mirya R. Holman: This big research team that's involved are all people that, before starting the study, mostly studied adults. Everybody studies gender and politics, and a lot of us study questions around political ambition: Why are some people interested in running for political office? Why are other people less interested?
[The team] kept having these conversations over and over again — there's a lot of interventions that we're seeing that are often very successful in trying to get more women to run for the state legislature level or local office. But we are not seeing dramatic changes in the actual overall level of women's representation in the United States. By all accounts, we're looking at maybe 2100 before we're anywhere close to gender parity if we're the most optimistic about levels of women's representation.
We kept thinking maybe this actually starts much earlier than trying to recruit people that are in their 30s. So we set out to try to understand whether or not these gender gaps, in particular, in interest in politics and interest in holding political office, exist already among younger children, and we find that they do.
The research tests this new theoretical framework called “gendered political socialization." What is that, and why is it important in understanding the effects of girls' and boys' interest in politics?
We theorize that as children learn about the world, they go through two processes at the same time. The first is that boys and girls learn about gender in the world. And this is very well established in the literature that boys and girls, as young children and then through primary school, observe how men and women act in the world, and through those observations learn what kinds of roles men and women are supposed to occupy in the world. So if you only ever see women as elementary school teachers, for example, and you're a young child, you start to think, “Well, this is a role that women occupy in the world. And if I, a girl, am interested in having a role that is consistent with my gender then being an elementary school teacher is something that I might be interested in doing because it's consistent with the messaging that I'm getting about who belongs in the world." And we know from gender role theory that there is both internal and external pressures on kids to conform with these gender roles.
At the same time that this is happening — kids are learning about gender — they're also learning about politics. So one of the things that comes out from our studies is that kids are paying a lot of attention to what's going on in the political world as early as 6 years old. They know who political leaders are. They know who the president is. They're learning about who holds positions in the politics world, and through the social studies curriculum … they learn that, “Oh, we've only ever had men as presidents," for example.
In doing so, we argue that this process of gendered political socialization occurs, where they learn that politics is a space that's primarily occupied by men. And in learning that, that reinforces to them that politics is this masculine space and girls start to believe, “Well that's not really a place where I belong." And boys start to believe, “Oh, this is the place where I belong." And so we start to see these gaps emerge between boys and girls.
The research article concluded that children perceive politics to be a male-dominated space, and with age, girls increasingly see political leadership as dominated by male leaders. Was that surprising to you?
It confirmed my already existing expectations about what the world is like. One of the things that was surprising to me is sort of how early on this begins. We as a group had sort of discussed, “Well, maybe one of the things that happens is this starts to occur when we start to see student council elections. Maybe it's middle school or maybe high school when kids start to think of themselves as political actors, maybe that's when this begins." But what we see is that this begins in 3rd and 4th grade among kids. Under the age of 10, girls are already sort of opting out of thinking about themselves as political actors.
Separately, the research indicates that as children grow older, they internalize gendered expectations. You've already talked about this a little bit, but can you explain it a little bit more in terms of what ramifications that has?
When we think about these gendered expectations, we might think about this as constraining our sort of daily behavior, right? What do people wear? How do they act? How do they treat other people? But it also constrains what they think about in terms of their potential roles in the future in society.
One of the bodies of scholarship we draw a lot on is from research from science education that's really been trying to think about how to get girls more excited about STEM [science, technology, engineering and math]. And in that literature, they show over and over again that basically girls can't conceive of themselves as being a scientist and doing the things that they want to do in their life. One of the sorts of components to this is that girls are socialized to be more interested in communal activities.
These are socialized roles that girls internalize over time. And they can't necessarily see themselves as occupying those roles doing that work in a position like politics, because politics is seen as masculine. It's not going to have those communal characteristics.
As part of the research, you and your colleagues asked children to draw pictures of political leaders. For boys, the probability of them at age 6 drawing a male political leader is 75 percent and drops to just 71 percent at age 12. At age 6, the probability of a girl drawing a man as a political leader is 47 percent; by age 12 that probability increases to almost 75 percent. What has happened in-between?
The drawings represented for us one of the more exciting pieces of the research, because the drawings themselves are very interesting and honestly incredibly cute. But they also represent for us a really clear example of this idea of, you can't be what you can't see. As girls learn more and more about the political world, and they learn more and more about who occupies the political world and who has occupied the political world, they see themselves less and less in it. So, as children age, boys just go along and they draw mostly pictures of men, no matter what their age. But girls increasingly draw images of men as they learn more about the political system. So as their political knowledge grows, they're more likely to see politics as a space that's dominated by men.
What are the consequences of girls losing political interest and ambition at such a young age?
One is, if we're thinking sort of generally as a society … we're going to have to think about interventions to get girls interested in politics at a far earlier age than we've been aiming so far. Often what we see is, maybe college students, sometimes high school students, but often adult women, we're trying to convince adult women to be interested in politics or engaged in politics. And our research would suggest we may actually want to start far earlier on in the life cycle to get women interested in politics.
The other piece of it too, though, is thinking about sort of how we talk about politics and how we talk about who's in politics. A lot of social science curriculum uses this really traditional historio-political context where they sort of go through the major political events in American history and point to who was involved in those. So we have many drawings of Abraham Lincoln in our sample because kids learn about Abraham Lincoln as an important political figure. Of course, Abraham Lincoln is an important political figure, but if kids are only learning about men as important political figures, we're not going to have an easy way of sort of changing people's ideas about who belongs in politics.
Was there anything else about the research that you found surprising or that you think would be important for readers to consider?
One of the things that we found that was pleasantly surprising is that kids think about political leaders as engaging in things that academics would consider communal activities: helping other people, caring for people, solving problems, going into the community — these things that are what we would want political leaders to be known for. And so we hope that means that people that are interested in hearing broadly about others in the community could see themselves as potential political leaders and kids that are interested in communal activities and potentially caring for other people could see themselves as growing up and being a political leader that helps change things for the better.
What are the potential solutions here? The research indicates that early intervention is necessary. What should that look like?
We're trying to figure that out. That's one of the sort of next steps for us. One of the things that we think is key is thinking about what these social science curricula look like and what kinds of lessons are kids getting in the classroom about who belongs in politics. The other piece of it, though, is thinking about making sure that kids are exposed to a wide range of political role models. We very much have a political system where we talk a lot about what is happening in the White House, and we have for the first time ever a woman as a political leader of the White House. So thinking about the opportunities that Kamala Harris' position affords us might be something that's really interesting. The other piece of it is making sure that, we know, for example, fathers are less likely to talk about politics with their daughters as compared to their sons, and girls' political interests are more likely to be dismissed by their parents and role models, so making sure that parents and role models are thinking about the ways that they can have conversations about politics with their daughters as well as their sons, to make sure that their daughters are getting the full exposure to information about politics.
Generational divides in American politics are nothing new, but they seem particularly striking now as the oldest Millennials turn 40 this year. Charlotte Alter has spent the past four years documenting these interesting political dynamics and joins The McCourtney Institute For Democracy to discuss with the team in this episode of the Democracy Works podcast.
Saxena is a research associate at RepresentWomen and a master of public policy candidate at Georgetown University. Goral is the digital communications manager for RepresentWomen.
The American Immigration Council reported that roughly 44.7 million first-generation Americans lived in the United States earlier this year. Within this population, there were approximately 2 million more women than men. Despite making up about 14 percent of the U.S. population, first-gen Americans, specifically first-gen women, are hardly represented as a community within our political bodies.
Did you know that the first foreign-born woman was not elected to Congress until 1989? This is an intersectional issue. One is not entirely about gender, but an interplay between xenophobic policy legacies, exclusionary tactics, and the everlasting barriers for women and people of color in politics.
So, why are first-generation Americans, and specifically first-generation women, underrepresented in the federal government?
RepresentWomen's latest report answers that question.
In the past, a first-generation politician was a rich, white man who mainly immigrated to the United States during their youth. They had little difficulty assimilating, getting elected and being accepted by society. This first-generation politician's experience of the past is drastically different from what the immigrant experience embodies today. While it is clear that the four waves of immigration expanded and diversified the U.S. population, foreign-born political representation has suffered due to exclusionary legislation like the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Immigration Act of 1924. These xenophobic and racist legislative legacies still impact immigrant policymaking today.
In addition to legislative barriers, registration barriers for first-generation voters also significantly weakened individual community support for immigrant candidates. A study conducted by Pei-te Lien found that foreign-born Asian American Pacific Islander voters who did manage to get registered to vote were more likely to vote than their U.S.-born counterparts. Still, poor mobilization efforts often resulted in low registration rates.
Similarly, Michael Parkin and Frances Zlotnick analyzed Latino participation in the 2000 elections. They found that language barriers impacted registration rates more than turnout and that legislation like the Voting Rights Act did little to mitigate this issue.
First-generation women experience compounding voicelessness due to the intersectionality of gender-related barriers. These barriers include competency bias, biased media coverage and the male incumbency advantage, to name a few.
Our research shows that many first-generation candidates run as challengers against incumbents, significantly reducing women candidates' odds of winning. In the 2020 elections, 68 percent of first-generation women candidates ran as challengers; 7 percent won.
Together, these factors could explain why foreign-born women were not elected to Congress until 1989 and why only three foreign-born women were elected in the subsequent 10 Congressional sessions.
Though first-generation politicians are now 5 percent of all voting members of Congress, and though four out of five newly elected first-generation politicians are women, reflective representation has still not been achieved.
Now is the time for gatekeepers and activists alike to take action. Political parties should expand their mobilization efforts to all immigrant communities. Ensuring that first-generation candidates are recruited, supported and included. And, at this point, an inclusive approach for non-English speaking voters and candidates is just plain mandatory. It's good politics as well.
If the U.S. upholds its tarnished title as a "nation of immigrants," we better discuss this dissonance in our values. It is time we incorporate and modernize our notion of first-generation representation as a marker for diversity in American politics. It's time we represent first-generation voices.
Originally published by The 19th.
The Justice Department announced Thursday that it has filed a lawsuit against Texas over its six-week abortion ban that went into effect last week. The Biden administration has faced pressure to take action after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block the new law that has become the most restrictive in the country.
The DOJ lawsuit will test the federal government's ability to challenge Texas' unique legislation, which empowers private parties to sue anyone who “aids or abets" a person in obtaining an abortion in the state after six weeks of pregnancy. That key provision significantly differs from attempted abortion restrictions in other states, which rely on criminal enforcement, and may complicate federal attempts to intervene, experts say.
In a news conference, Attorney General Merrick Garland said his department is seeking a “permanent and preliminary injunction" prohibiting the law from being enforced.
“The act is clearly unconstitutional under long-standing Supreme Court precedent," Garland said. “The obvious and expressly acknowledged intention of this statutory scheme is to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights by thwarting judicial review for as long as possible."
The department's complaint argues that the Texas restriction violates the Fourteenth Amendment right for a person to choose whether or not to have an abortion.
“S.B. 8 implicates this doctrine by expressly authorizing—indeed, empowering—individuals to engage in conduct that violates the constitutional rights of women throughout Texas, in a manner in which the State itself would not be able to engage," the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit also asserts that the law violates the Constitution's Supremacy Clause, which says the federal constitution takes precedence over state laws.
“There are all kinds of federal agencies who have federal contractors or federal employees operating in Texas, and some of the things they do would put them at risk of being sued by individuals in Texas under S.B. 8," said Sara Ainsworth, senior legal and policy director at If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice. The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, for example, can help facilitate reproductive health care, including abortions for unaccompanied minors. S.B. 8 would also interfere with the Defense Department's legal authority to provide abortions to people who are eligible because they either would be endangered by carrying a fetus to term or became pregnant due to rape or incest, the lawsuit says.
Abortion rights organizations praised the move. “We are heartened to see the Biden administration stepping in to take action to vindicate Texans' rights," Helene Krasnoff, vice president of public policy litigation and law for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.
- “It's a gamechanger that the Department of Justice has joined the legal battle to restore constitutionally protected abortion access in Texas and disarm vigilantes looking to collect their bounties," Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.
Last week President Joe Biden promised that his administration would explore a “whole-of-government" response to the Texas law. He condemned the restrictions, stating that the aid and abet clause “unleashes unconstitutional chaos and empowers self-anointed enforcers to have devastating impacts."
Congressional Democrats are vowing to pass federal legislation to establish abortion access nationally. This includes a proposed bill known as the Women's Health Protection Act, which would create a statutory right to abortion care, effectively voiding restrictive state laws like Texas'.
“Every woman, everywhere has the constitutional right to basic health care," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote in a statement following the Supreme Court's ruling. “S.B. 8 is the most extreme, dangerous abortion ban in half a century, and its purpose is to destroy Roe v. Wade, and even refuses to make exceptions for cases of rape and incest. This ban necessitates codifying Roe v. Wade." But abortion rights legislation would face obstacles in the evenly divided Senate, where it would need 60 votes to pass.
On Tuesday, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee called for Garland to “use the full power of the Department of Justice to defend a woman's constitutional right to choose an abortion," including criminal prosecution against individuals who attempt to enforce Texas' law.
Ainsworth said the DOJ's lawsuit could lead to a different interpretation from the Supreme Court's majority opinion, which essentially argued that the court could not block Texas' law largely because it is individuals, not officials, who are in charge of enforcement.
An important distinction between the cases, Ainsworth said, is that the DOJ lawsuit holds Texas responsible for enabling individuals to sue. Part of the department's argument, she said, is this: “You may say that you farmed this out to private people to enforce and therefore you are free from any lawsuit against it, but you are wrong."
Those who successfully sue someone over an abortion would be awarded at least $10,000 and have their legal fees reimbursed. Lawsuits on the constitutionality of the six-week ban are pending.
Since the law took effect on September 1, clinics in the state have stopped scheduling abortion-related visits for people who are more than six weeks pregnant. A number of clinics in surrounding states have abortion appointments booked through mid-October, said Kamyon Conner, executive director of the Texas Equal Access Fund. Many people do not understand the specifics of the legislation, leaving them uncertain about what circumstances they can face legal action, Conner added.
Texas state Sen. Bryan Hughes, one of the bill's lead authors, told The 19th last week that he has had conversations with other state lawmakers interested in writing similar legislation. In his news conference, Garland said any similar actions from other states will be met with federal action as well.
As the court battle over Texas plays out, abortion rights advocates are also looking ahead to another case that will allow the Supreme Court to determine whether Mississippi will be allowed to enforce an abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy. That restriction, like others around the country, has been on hold while it's being considered by the courts, and the decision could have wide-ranging effects.
Garson is legal counsel and chief of staff for the Bridge Alliance, which houses The Fulcrum.
The Bridge Alliance's mission is to promote healthy self-governance in America, which means strengthening our democratic republic and empowering Americans to take control of their own future. The best — and perhaps only — way to do this is by co-creating the future with the American people. More specifically, we believe that the movement's leadership must reflect the experiences, values and beliefs of everyday Americans.
That is why, in 2019, the Bridge Alliance announced that diversity would be an integral part of our operating system. And in 2020 we released the first Diversity Report, which showed that the Bridge Alliance community's leadership was whiter, older, and more progressive than the nation as a whole. This year, our goal was to measure the progress we have made in giving all Americans a seat at the table, and to identify where there is room for improvement.
The 2021 Diversity Report does exactly that. This report shows that the field has made progress to better mirror the general population of the United States. While our member organizations still tend to be more mature, more white, and more progressive than the country as a whole, the numbers are trending in the right direction for ideology and age. On the other hand, it is clear that we must do a better job of recruiting and welcoming racially and ethnically diverse Americans.
This year's results also show that we have room for improvement in how we define and measure diversity. For instance, we removed geographic hometown diversity from this year's report for several reasons (you can read more about that decision in the report itself), and in its place we added gender/sex diversity. We recognize, however, that geographic diversity is still very important. We also recognize that there are other important areas of diversity, such as education. We will continue to evaluate what it means to be "diverse" and how we can encourage the movement to become more diverse and inclusive.
To be clear, we do not expect every Bridge Alliance member to be as diverse as America. The work of our members differs considerably, all with different constituencies and therefore, natural differentiations in their levels of diversity. Instead, we seek to raise awareness of the importance of diversity and of the steps that can be taken related to all diversity work with the hope of having the field be more reflective of the demographics of the country.
Simply stated, this report is a reminder that we are a diverse nation and to thrive as Americans we must welcome and embrace diverse perspectives and experiences. Our hope is to firmly plant this mentality within the healthy self-governance movement with the expectation that if we are deliberate and persistent in our pursuit of diversity, we will form a representative constituency who will, in turn, demand healthy and functional governance that reflects the rich diversity of Americans.
We hope you will join us in this journey.
The Democrats who run the Illinois Legislature didn't waste any time ramming new state House and Senate maps through the legislative process this week, despite criticism and pleas from community organizations for a more thorough and transparent process.
State lawmakers revealed new maps Monday to replace a series of maps that had already been passed prior to the release of updated census data. However, it was determined the new maps violated the "one person, one vote" principle, forcing a third set of maps to be offered the next day,. That final set of maps was approved hours later.
Democratic leaders argued that the maps accurately reflect the census data that was released in August. Republicans and other critics, however, called the maps a "sham" and accused the Democratic majority of putting partisanship ahead of better representation.
The overall redistricting process has been heavily criticized. Lawmakers rushed multiple hearings over six days ahead of the original map reveal on Monday. Then, after introducing revised maps on Tuesday that were drawn behind closed doors, legislative leaders held a single hearing half an hour later.
Witnesses who testified at Tuesday's hearing urged legislators to give the public time to weigh in on the maps before a vote was taken. The public, however, was not given that opportunity. Now, maps that critics say do not honor the diversity of Illinois' population are headed to Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker's desk.
"Drawing district maps in locked back rooms yet again, Illinois lawmakers underscored their utter disregard for the will of the people and for the bedrock democratic principles of open government by and for the people," said CHANGE Illinois Executive Director Madeleine Doubek. "Gov. Pritzker said he wanted maps that reflect the state's rich diversity. These maps fall far short of that request and should be rejected by him. Failing that, we hope the courts will force the correction of lawmakers' callous political mapping calculations."
CHANGE Illinois is a nonpartisan nonprofit that focuses on fair maps in Illinois. In a press release, the group pointed out that the legislative maps reduce the number of districts with majority Black and majority Latino voting populations. Aviva Miriam Patt from the Decalogue Society of Lawyers also noted in testimony that the revised maps split up Jewish communities in Chicago and its northern suburbs and cracked majority Blacks suburbs south of the city.
"Twice in a matter of months, Illinoisans have seen their overwhelming pleas for independent and transparent mapmaking utterly ignored by those elected to represent them," said Doubek. "Their maps make a farce of democracy and their mapmaking process was a charade. Illinois lawmakers have effectively demonstrated the clear and compelling need to end gerrymandering once and for all."
Other organizations that called for greater accountability and transparency in the redistricting process included the Latino Policy Forum, Common Cause Illinois, Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition, the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations and Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights.
If approved by Pritzker, the new maps will be used for the next decade. The Legislature has not yet introduced new congressional maps but that is expected to be an equally partisan process.
A majority of Americans want the federal government to play a more active role in aspects of higher education, family life and medical leave, according to new surveys that took a novel approach to gathering public opinion.
Researchers with the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland's School of Public Policy and Voice of the People surveyed more than 2,600 registered voters to gauge public support of the Biden administration's policy priorities that are being debated in Congress. Their findings, released this week, touched on four issues: higher education, child care and childhood nutrition, paid family and medical leave, and federal tax enforcement.
Unlike traditional polling, though, this survey used a policymaking simulation to brief respondents on all sides of an issue before asking whether they supported or opposed it. To ensure the survey is balanced, the briefing materials are reviewed by opponents and proponents of the issues. By using this method, the idea is to put voters in the shoes of policymakers, said Steven Kull, director of the Program for Public Consultation.
"This enables us to ask questions about things that people may not have really thought about very much or might not have considered both sides of the issue, or they may not have some critical information," he said.
Sometimes with traditional polling there is large fluctuation in how people respond to a certain issue because of how questions are worded, Kull said.
"When people have thought about it more, they're not so reactive to those little variations, so it's a more reliable way of doing it," he said. "There are so many issues in Congress that people just don't have enough information about to give meaningful input on. So the whole idea is to expand the range of areas that the public can weigh in on."
While only one policy proposal garnered bipartisan support (increased funding for Pell Grants), there was majority approval for every policy among voters in congressional districts across the political spectrum, from the most conservative to the most liberal.
"There's this assumption that Congress reflects this division in different parts of the country, but even looking at very red to very blue districts — they basically agree," Kull said.
The survey of 2,613 registered voters was conducted between July 29 and Aug. 23. The margin of error was 1.9 percentage points.
Here are the findings from the four policy sections of the survey:
At the start of this section of the survey, voters were presented with three arguments for and three against the federal government offering more financial assistance for college education. Following each argument, voters were asked how convincing they found the reasoning to be.
Initially, nearly two-thirds of Americans said they were in favor of more higher education funding. Democrats showed the strongest support at 90 percent, followed by independents at 62 percent, but only 35 percent of Republicans felt similarly.
Then voters were asked about the two specific proposals in the budget reconciliation plan: increasing the financial aid provided through the Pell Grant program and making community college tuition free for all students. Support for higher education funding increased following these more pointed questions, with seven in 10 voters favoring the proposal. Bipartisan support was only found for increasing Pell Grant funding, though, with just over half (53 percent) of Republicans in favor.
View the arguments for and against increasing financial aid for higher education with the policymaking simulation.
Child care and nutrition
Lower-income families on average spend 35 percent of their income on child care. A provision in the budget reconciliation bill would subsidize those costs so that families don't spend more than 7 percent of their income on child care. (Families of all incomes spend, on average, 10 percent on child care.)
The survey found that overall 63 percent of Americans were in favor of such a proposal. An overwhelming majority of Democrats (86 percent) as well as most independents (59 percent) were in favor. But six in 10 Republicans were opposed.
There was slightly more favorability across the political spectrum for providing very low-income families that have children up to $130 of credits a month during the summer to purchase groceries. Two-thirds of Americans backed this proposal, including 85 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of independents and 44 percent of Republicans.
View the arguments for and against subsidizing child care and childhood nutrition with the policymaking simulation.
Paid family and medical leave
President Biden's American Families Plan calls for up to 12 weeks of family or medical leave per year, with two-thirds of that period being paid up to a maximum of $4,000.
The survey found 49 percent of voters were in favor of this proposal, including 85 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of independents. While only one-third of Republicans overall were supportive, this policy was viewed more favorably among young conservatives (56 percent) and non-white conservatives (50 percent).
View the arguments for and against funding paid family and medical leave with the policymaking simulation.
The American Families Plan also proposes raising the IRS budget $8 billion a year for 10 years to bolster tax enforcement on individuals with incomes higher than $400,000, update the technology used to detect tax evasion and require banks to help the IRS verify tax filers' information.
Two-thirds of Americans supported an increased IRS budget, including 88 percent of Democrats, 65 percent of independents and 46 percent of Republicans.
View the arguments for and against increasing the IRS budget with the policymaking simulation.
Two of the most frequently used words in right-wing America, "freedom" and "Constitution," are also among the most misused. Many American conservatives believe the "Constitution" gives them the "freedom" to do just about anything they like. They are free to own guns and carry them openly, free to refuse to be vaccinated, free to refuse to wear masks in public places, free to refuse to accept the results of a free and fair election, and, to some, even free to invade government buildings and threaten those who work there with violence or death. Combining the two, these conservatives are convinced that anyone who asserts such "freedom" in the name of the "Constitution" is a "patriot."
From a moral or philosophical perspective, there are any number of flaws in this argument. The first and most obvious is that absolute freedom for everyone is impossible. Almost by definition, absolute freedom for some means diminished freedom for others. If, for example, potentially Covid-infected people are free to refuse vaccinations or mask mandates and swarm into schools or other public places, those who fear contracting the disease have their freedom of movement limited. And so, the "personal freedom" currently extolled by, among others, Governors Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida, is merely the freedom for their supporters to curtail the freedom of others, although it is never expressed in those terms.
As the pandemic worsened and the disastrous impact of the "personal freedom" argument became apparent, some conservatives began to chuck in the phrase "personal responsibility," as if merely asking people to behave with consideration toward others would cause them to abandon their ideals and give in to what they see as tyranny. Predictably, the requests rang hollow and it soon became apparent that "personal responsibility" was to be soundly rejected as a restraining factor in these patriots' behavior. Even that paragon of personal freedom (for himself), Donald Trump was booed for urging his erstwhile supporters to be vaccinated.
The question remains, however, whether the Constitution guarantees, or even suggests, the sort of freedom being touted by conservatives — whether "We the People," is actually "We the People ... Not You."
The answer is a resounding no. One need only to read the preamble to recognize that forming "a more perfect Union" and securing "the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity" includes promoting "the general Welfare." The power to determine "general welfare" and enforce provisions in that interest — what is referred to in legal circles as "police power" — is clearly reserved to the government formed from that Constitution. While there are some areas in which police power is delegated to the states, state action cannot be extended to threaten the welfare of the nation as a whole. To buttress that notion, a multitude of Supreme Court decisions interpreting the Constitution make it clear that there can be no freedom without responsibility, and that government is obligated to impose such responsibility when some of "the people" do not meet that standard voluntarily.
For example, freedom of speech, a favorite topic for conservatives these days, has been judged to be in no way absolute. The most famous prohibition forbids yelling fire in a crowded theater, a phrase coined by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1919 in United States v. Schenck. A more telling decision, however, was rendered by a unanimous Court in 1942 in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, where the justices ruled that "fighting words" which "by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace," were not protected by the First Amendment. Although Chaplinsky still stands, what constitutes "fighting words" has remained a subject for conjecture ever since. Still, the message that free speech must be accompanied by a degree of civic responsibility remains a part of American law.
Another example can be found in Justice Antonin Scalia's controversial decision in District of Columbia v. Heller. Conservatives hailed the decision as establishing their unfettered right to own firearms, which they were convinced was embodied in the Second Amendment. The most important gun rights decision before Heller was United States v. Miller in 1939. There the court ruled unanimously that Jack Miller, a bank robber on the run after squealing on his compatriots, did not have the right to transport a sawed-off shotgun across state lines in violation of the National Firearms Act, because his weapon had no possible military purpose and therefore would not be used in a "well regulated militia." (Miller was not around to lament his loss. He was found murdered before the decision was rendered.)
In Heller, Scalia, speaking for a 5-4 court, cast Miller and the militia requirement aside and struck down a District of Columbia ordinance that required all firearms including rifles and shotguns be kept "unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock," even in an individual's home. For the first time, the court found that the right to keep and bear arms applied to private individuals. The decision was excoriated by dissenters, who claimed (correctly) that the Second Amendment was intended to address the need for common defense in a nation that could not afford a standing army. Conservatives, of course, hailed the decision as an expression of personal freedom.
But what those freedom-loving conservatives generally fail to mention is the limitations Scalia put on a right they view as unconditional. "Like most rights," Scalia wrote, "the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose." As a result, although Congress has lacked the will to do so, any number of laws limiting the sale or use of firearms would not infringe on the Heller decision.
Although there is no absolute yardstick to be sure, to create a free society, individual freedom must always be subject to limitations, one of which is that no person can have the right to put another person in danger. Patriotism then is not the demand for unbridled individual freedom at the expense of others, but the willingness to give up a degree of individual freedom for the good of others.
We would be a much stronger nation if both our leaders and our citizenry grasped that basic truth.
Frazier, a student at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, runs The Oregon Way, a nonpartisan blog.
A few weeks back, the Tualatin Rotary Club kindly invited me to speak about The Oregon Way, the nonpartisan blog I started as a way to revive Oregon's civic culture. I ran through a presentation that, among other things, called for improving civic knowledge in the state.
When the meeting ended, a former educator approached me. They wanted to make sure I knew about SB 513, a recently passed bill meant to shore up civic education in Oregon schools. And, while the bipartisan legislators that championed that bill deserve praise, it's a woefully inadequate response to a dire lack of civic knowledge. Real civic knowledge requires civic education as well as civic experience.
The text of the bill itself lays out the dismal state of civic knowledge among America's youth. The last time high school seniors took a national assessment on civic knowledge — back in 2010 — less than one in four students scored "proficient." One in three had a "below basic" knowledge of our democracy. In response, the Oregon Legislature passed a bill that's too late and does too little.
The crux of the bill — a requirement to pass a civics course before graduation — doesn't come into force until the Class of 2026 (students just starting eighth grade). In the interim, Oregon will continue to send students through an education system without preparing them to thrive as democratic participants. Most other states also require some sort of credit requirement prior to graduation.
But a couple of credits from civics-related courses will leave students short of developing meaningful civic knowledge. Imagine if Michael Jordan's basketball education was confined to reciting the rules of the game. Do you think he'd be the greatest of all time? No.
Most students will treat the mandated courses and assignments like any other requirement — check the box, complete the tests and move on to the next thing. What made MJ incredible was actually getting in the game. We need to give our future leaders the same opportunity — civic education and civic experience.
If we really want to prepare students to shape our democracy, then we must create opportunities for them to practice just that — actually participating. Of course, a basic understanding of our Bill of Rights, Constitution and federalist system is essential, but numerous and substantive experiences in democratic activities can be transformative.
The other person who came up to me after the meeting had just that sort of transformative experience. Her school required every student to work on a political campaign before graduation. She was assigned to assist Leon Panetta in his race for Congress. Of course, Panetta won that race and, decades later, eventually served as secretary of defense. With every move Panetta made up the political ladder, his student campaign volunteer kept her eye on him — she felt like she had an obligation to see if he lived up to the initial campaign pledges he made so many years before. That's civic knowledge in action.
Imagine if we empowered young Americans to attend city council meetings, submit testimony to the state legislature, and volunteer for a campaign of their choice (local, state or federal). That's the sort of learning that will build on traditional conceptions of civic education and actually improve civic knowledge.
Some people will say that requiring civic experiences just isn't feasible in these partisan times. And it's true that a participation requirement is more controversial than merely asking students to recite the Bill of Rights. However, that requirement, as mentioned above, doesn't have to be tied to a particular party, candidate or ideology. Attending a semester's worth of city council meetings doesn't force any sort of speech or preach a certain ideology, it merely reminds students that they have a seat at the table — and should make the most of that seat.
Others will say that students can seek out political internships on their own accord. The problem is many of those positions aren't paid and, even if they are, may only go to the kids of parents already thoroughly engaged in our democracy. Our hands-off approach to civic experiences means that only a select bunch of students tend to accumulate the knowledge necessary to shape our democracy. Our country must do better than that by making civic experiences just as much of an expectation as civic education and as soon as possible ... not years from now.
Oregon and the rest of the United States cannot wait until 2026 to give our students the tools they need to secure a democracy that's facing threats from nearly every angle. We need more than tests of civic education to prepare our students for the task of leading our state into the future. We ought to provide every student with meaningful civic experiences that remind students that they, like the rest of us, are the drivers of our democracy.
Katherine Gehl, founder of The Institute for Political Innovation (IPI), was recently featured on the Down to Earth with Terry Virts podcast. Down to Earth features astronaut and shuttle pilot Terry Virts, as he talks to guests about what matters down here on Planet Earth including fixing America's broken political system. Down to Earth mixes interesting people with hot topics and cosmic perspectives.
As the House returns from recess this week, Democrats will make their latest push for a major upgrade to voting rights protections nationally.
The long-awaited John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act was introduced by Rep. Terri Sewell of Alabama last week, and House Democratic leaders say a vote on the bill is imminent.
Voting rights advocates believe the VRAA would provide critical protections for minority voters at a time when many states are enacting new limits on voting access. But like the For the People Act, it's unclear how the VRAA will overcome a Republican filibuster in the Senate.
What would the Voting Rights Advancement Act do?
Named after the late civil rights leader and lawmaker John Lewis, the VRAA would restore and strengthen provisions of the original 1965 Voting Rights Act. Primarily, it would reinstate preclearance, or the requirement that certain jurisdictions get advance approval of their election laws from the Justice Department.
Initially, preclearance prevented states (or portions of states) with histories of racial discrimination from enacting additional laws that suppressed the rights of nonwhite voters. But in 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the constraint, finding that, while previously appropriate, it was no longer necessary and placed an unconstitutional burden on governments.
The VRAA would use a new formula to determine the states and localities that require federal oversight. Only places that meet a high threshold of infractions — 10 violations, if at least one is statewide, or 15 total over the last 25 years — would be subject to preclearance.
House Democrats passed a version of this bill in 2019, but it was later blocked by Senate Republicans. In this second attempt, Democrats added a provision addressing a Supreme Court decision from earlier this summer. In Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the court's conservative majority ruling made it harder to challenge election laws for being potentially discriminatory against minority voters. The VRAA would amend the Voting Rights Act to eliminate this higher standard for voter discrimination challenges.
Voting rights advocates see the VRAA as a critical tool for protecting minority communities not only from restrictive election laws, but also from partisan map manipulations. Most of the country is at a high risk of gerrymandering as politicians control the redistricting process in 39 states.
How is this bill different from the For the People Act?
Democrats and voting rights advocates say the VRAA is not a replacement for the For the People Act. Instead, they say, the two bills would work in tandem.
While the VRAA would prevent discriminatory voting laws from being enacted in the future, the For the People Act would establish nationwide standards for voting and election policies.
The For the People Act would mandate automatic voter registration, two weeks of early voting and no-excuse absentee voting, among other voting expansions. It would also eliminate partisan gerrymandering by requiring states to use independent commissions to draw election maps. And the bill would curb the influence of wealthy special interests by creating a small-dollar public financing system for federal elections and bolstering transparency around political spending.
What's the likelihood the VRAA will become law?
Similar to the For the People Act, the VRAA will face steep opposition in the Senate once it passes through the House. Only one Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, has signaled support for the legislation, meaning it likely won't receive the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
In June, Republican Senators blocked a motion to begin debate on the For the People Act, stalling its progress. Democrats promised to make another push in September, but there is no clear path forward for either bill unless the filibuster is reformed or eliminated.