In our reruns, an amalgam of a more civil society
Molineaux is the co-founder and executive director of Bridge Alliance, a coalition of more than 90 civic reform groups. (Disclosure: The Bridge Alliance Education Fund is a funder of The Fulcrum.)
I grew up watching reruns of "The Andy Griffith Show" in the late 1970s. It always felt to me a little nostalgic for its lessons that simple living was best. I enjoyed the show and still appreciate the values the show exemplifies.
A few years ago, as I was watching our societal divisions widen, I explored the idea of having Sheriff Andy meet Captain Picard of "Star Trek: the Next Generation." I researched and talked with people about how to help these two fictional characters meet and converse. Eventually I abandoned the idea as a fun thought experiment without a conclusion.
Maybe I was pursuing the wrong goal — and seeking something else could help improve our civil discourse.
Mostly, I felt their values were similar, but what they wanted for their own lives seemed so vastly different. I had trouble imagining a scene where they were both comfortable and happy.
Imagine beaming Sheriff Andy up to the Enterprise — maybe a holodeck version of Mayberry? Or how might he see the rest of the ship? Or imagine Captain Picard leading an away team in Mayberry. What challenge would he find to overcome that Sheriff Andy didn't have under control? How would the townspeople react to strangers in their midst? Captain Picard might be bored silly or, more likely, get into trouble. That's what happens when outsiders come into Mayberry — they cause trouble. (Review of plots has confirmed this.)
And of course, there is that whole patriarchal thing of letting the men figure it all out and be the hero. But that's another opinion piece.
But what if ... they have shared values that could be identified, or Sheriff Andy and Captain Picard were best friends, or Mayberry and the Enterprise co-existed and were just different places to live, or instead of a culture war about which was better, we like BOTH communities?
Could we use the values of both communities to find our way forward as a nation? I have always appreciated many perspectives on the world. It's why I'm often labeled as a "postmodernist" or "humanist." If the label fits, I'll wear it. I'm more concerned with how I might help others appreciate different perspectives, too. Maybe we start with values and build a new community — even a renewed nation — together.
Here's my list of the values I wish to keep from Mayberry:
- Sense of community and belonging
- Long-term relationships
- Personal responsibility and owning up to mistakes
- Forgiveness when mistakes are made
And the values I wish to keep from the Enterprise:
- Courage to explore new worlds (perspectives)
- Respect and curiosity when approaching new beings
- A sense of purpose that is larger than themselves
- Honor for all beings as equals
- Using strengths in challenging situations and trusting others to do the same.
Which brings me around to leadership. What are the values of leadership both communities expect and therefore receive? I turned to the big research tool in the sky — Facebook — and asked followers on a page what values they thought Sheriff Andy and Captain Picard shared. They came up with:
- Truth, honesty and integrity
- Doing what's right, even when difficult
- Kindness and respect
- Bearing loss with dignity
- Ability to listen and think deeply
- Ability to focus on the big picture
That's quite a lofty list for many real-life leaders to aspire to, and I wish they would. If I were to redevelop Mayberry, I would add in more courage and curiosity about new people or experiences. If I were to reorganize the Enterprise, I would add in more neighborliness and sense of community or belonging. On the Enterprise, the leaders had this among themselves but appeared distant from the crew.
And as for leadership, I would vote for leaders who embody these qualities instead of espouse them. Imagine what a different world we would enjoy as we live out these values in our communities and in ourselves. We might even be so bold as to start a new kind of gentle movement. A neighborly stadium wave of courage, kindness and respect. I'd like to live there. Wouldn't you?
In a partisan vote on an issue that once was bipartisan, House Democrats pushed through legislation Friday that would restore a key portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The Voting Rights Advancement Act passed the House 228-187, with all Democrats voting for the bill and all but one Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, voting against it.
The bill faces virtually no chance of being considered in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Broadcasters are pushing back against the Federal Communications Commission after the agency made clear it wants broader public disclosure regarding TV political ads.
With the 2020 election less than a year away and political TV ads running more frequently, the FCC issued a lengthy order to clear up any ambiguities licensees of TV stations had regarding their responsibility to record information about ad content and sponsorship. In response, a dozen broadcasting stations sent a petition to the agency, asking it to consider a more narrow interpretation of the law.
This dispute over disclosure rules for TV ads comes at a time when digital ads are subject to little regulation. Efforts to apply the same rules for TV, radio and print advertising across the internet have been stymied by Congress's partisanship and the Federal Election Commission being effectively out of commission.
Laura Williamson says her career was shaped by growing up in North Carolina, which she describes as being historically at the center of the best and worst of American democracy. She spent seven years working with young people at progressive groups and got a master's in public affairs at Princeton before joining Demos in the summer of 2018. The think tank aims to combat "threats to democracy, racial equity and economic inclusion" and as a senior policy analyst she's focused on voter registration, voting rights, money in politics and civic participation. Her answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
What's democracy's biggest challenge, in 10 words or less?
Abolishing all disenfranchisement schemes and achieving an inclusive, multiracial democracy.
Describe your very first civic engagement.
Testifying at the North Carolina General Assembly against cuts to funding for vocational education. The woodworking classes I took throughout high school were among the most formative of my public school education, so as a high school senior I advocated for their continued funding to lawmakers in Raleigh.
What was your biggest professional triumph?
It's actually a triumph-in-progress. At Demos, we are privileged to work with powerful grassroots leaders redefining democracy and pushing the reform conversation across the country. Alongside these Inclusive Democracy Project leaders we are dreaming and scheming about what it would take to build a truly inclusive democracy — without limiting ourselves by what's perceived as politically feasible or reasonable — and to chart a radical reform agenda that meets the challenge. Our agenda is in progress and, like all real victories, is benefitting from the efforts of many smart and talented people. Stay tuned, it'll be ready for public consumption soon!
And your most disappointing setback?
They have always come after I've not listened well enough, have brought too much ego and taken things too personally, or not followed my gut about when a process or decision felt off.
How does your identity influence the way you go about your work?
I'm from North Carolina, where we pioneered multiracial, pro-justice fusion politics during Reconstruction, civil disobedience during the civil rights movement and franchise-expanding voting reforms since the 1990s. More recently, we have also been home to the vanguard of voter suppression and other democracy stifling tactics since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. I stand on the shoulders of giants and against the abdication of our identity as democracy leaders. I also do this work because, as a white woman, I know the exclusion of entire communities from our democracy was — and is still — led by my people and, often, in my name. I work every day to undo that legacy and ongoing reality.
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
Learn to simultaneously practice patience and show up with urgency in all the work I do.
Create a new flavor for Ben & Jerry's.
Impeaches and Cream
West Wing or Veep?
West Wing — for the sometimes-too-earnest belief that government can be a force for good, not the centrist politics!
What's the last thing you do on your phone at night?
Turn on do not disturb.
What is your deepest, darkest secret?
I'm deeply terrified by karaoke.
Lightman is a professor of digital media and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University.
With the 2020 election less than a year away, Facebook is under fire from presidential candidates, lawmakers, civil rights groups and even its own employees to provide more transparency on political ads and potentially stop running them altogether.
Meanwhile, Twitter has announced that it will not allow any political ads on its platform.
Modern-day online ads use sophisticated tools to promote political agendas with a high degree of specificity.
I have closely studied how information propagates through social channels and its impact on political messaging and advertising.
Looking back at the history of mass media and political ads in the national narrative, I think it's important to focus on how TV advertising, which is monitored by the Federal Communications Commission, differs fundamentally with the world of social media.