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September 28, 2021
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Zaidane is the president and CEO of Millennial Action Project.
Today, Sept. 28, is National Voter Registration Day. On this day, people from all walks of life across the United States will come together toward one simple goal: to make sure as many people as possible can participate in our democracy.
Civic engagement is a pillar of democracy in the United States. By casting a ballot in any election — whether for local, state or federal government — we get to make our voices heard and our communities more reflective of the world we wish to live in.
Millennial and Generation Z voters are now the largest voting bloc in the United States — we can no longer be pushed to the side on the campaign trail. What's more, getting the younger generation civically engaged may actually be the key to defeating toxic polarization from which our nation is suffering.
After all, young people are the least inclined to register with either party; the most rapidly growing political affiliation for young people is independent. Young voters are increasingly more diverse, and continue to bring fresh, new perspectives to our political climate. The result of this trend is that, rather than a contest about which party has the largest voter base, candidates become politically incentivized to compete on the merits of their policy solutions. The best policy solutions don't have to be red or blue or even purple. The winning candidate is the one who proposes solutions that most resonate with the largest and most powerful bloc of voters: the youngest generation, who demand progress on improving the economy, climate, education and more, because we will be the ones to live through it all.
Republicans and Democrats alike should encourage young people's civic engagement and create policy solutions that reflect their will. This can not only build their own voter bases, but will aid in renewing public faith in our political system, inspire new participation and deepen participation from those already civically engaged.
By investing time and energy into registering young voters, our country stands on the precipice of defeating toxic polarization. Candidates will be forced to engage with new perspectives and solutions that do not necessarily fit into our current political binary, thus propelling us towards a new political era of post-partisanship.
National Voter Registration Day is our chance to create a more perfect union — a government for the people and by the people. Let's do our part. Let's register our young people to vote.
You can register to vote or check your registration status at vote.gov.
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September 27, 2021
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Philadelphia could be the next major city to switch to ranked-choice voting.
The Philadelphia City Council passed a resolution on Friday to consider using the alternative voting system for municipal elections and will proceed with public hearings to discuss the switch.
Momentum for ranked-choice voting has been building across the country, especially since New York City successfully used the new system in its June mayoral primaries.
Under this alternative voting system, voters rank candidates in order of preference. In the case that no candidate receives majority support, an instant runoff will occur, as the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and that person's support is redistributed to voters' second choices. That process continues until one candidate crosses the 50 percent threshold.
Proponents of RCV say it reduces the cost of election administration and improves the voter experience by eliminating the need for costly runoff elections. Supporters also argue RCV bolsters the campaigns of women and people of color. However, critics say the system is confusing and doesn't necessarily lead to better representation.
Exit polling following the New York City mayoral primaries showed high voter turnout and an easy transition to the ranked-choice voting system. More than 1.1 million New Yorkers cast ballots in the primaries, the highest turnout in more than three decades. And for the first time ever, women will likely hold a majority of the 51 city council seats. New York City will also likely have its first-ever openly gay Black woman and first person of South Asian decent join the council following the general election in November.
The Philadelphia City Council will consider the implications of adopting such a system in Pennsylvania's largest city.
"Like New York City, Philadelphia has partisan primaries that are followed by a general election that is far less contested," said Rob Richie, president and CEO of FairVote, which advocates for RCV. "New York's precedent for adding ranked-choice voting to the primary is a particularly sensible step that will make more votes count, as FairVote and our Philadelphia reform allies have suggested for years."
In addition to New York City, 39 other jurisdictions currently have a ranked-choice voting system. Maine and Alaska offer RCV in statewide elections.
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As co-publisher of The Fulcrum, Debilyn Molineaux's name is synonymous with cross-partisan bridge building and the importance of civil dialogue in a democratic society. In this episode of How to Win Friends and Save the Republic from the National Association of Nonpartisan Reformers, Debilyn discusses her path from advertising to being a candidate for public office to co-founding some of the most influential bridging organizations in the democracy ecosystem.
Leveraging big ideas
September 27, 2021
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Gates and Gerzon are co-directors of Philanthropy Bridging Divides, a transpartisan conversation among America's philanthropic leaders.
There are some phrases that just feel good to say. "Collaborative problem solving," "hearing all sides," "working together," "finding common ground." What could possibly be controversial about any of that? Yet one such phrase "bridging divides," which seems at first glance like an obviously positive intention, has itself become controversial and sometimes even divisive.
So before you rush into the battlefield in between the armies of the "right" and "left," stop, look and listen. You will be far more effective if you know how complicated this terrain has become, and what may come your way if you say you want to be a bridger.
During the decades that the two of us have done this "bridging" work, around the country and around the world, we have learned how difficult and rewarding it can be. But in the divided time that we live in, we have observed how even bridging divides is being dragged into partisan warfare.
When we survey the terrain, we see at least four different attitudes towards bridging. Some are opposed to bridging on its merits because they believe that it involves forgiving wrong or offensive positions on "the other side." Others innocently believe that just bringing good intentions to a divisive conversation will be effective. Still others use bridging in a Machiavellian way to manipulate people by pretending to be open to hearing another perspective when, in truth, they are clearly not. And finally, there are folks who are thoughtfully and authentically working to bridge divides.
In the remainder of this column, we'll focus on the first group, those who are truly anti-bridging. In our subsequent columns, we will focus on the rest of the field.
The case made by anti-bridgers is clear. They feel that they are absolutely right and the other side is absolutely wrong, that they own "The Truth." They believe that they are on the side of good and their adversaries are on the side of evil. We have seen much evidence of this phenomena in recent years as more and more conservatives and progressives say they think the other side wants to hurt the country. It wasn't that long ago when we viewed our political opponents as honorable people with whom we genuinely disagreed. That attitude towards our adversaries created a different, and more civil, form of public debate and discourse. However, when you presume that your opponent's motives are malicious, or that their intentions are actually destructive, there is no longer any reason to treat them with civility or respect.
From this perspective, someone who engages with the other side — in other words, a bridger — is a traitor to their cause, or giving in to the enemy. So the reason anti-bridgers attend public meetings is not to hear the other side and consider their perspective, but to shame them and shout them down. They are experts at using social media to create echo chambers that amplify their perspective, even if it is held by a small number of people.
Based on our experience, some of these anti-bridgers are so consumed with their hatred for the other side that they are unwilling or unable to listen or hear or explore transpartisan solutions that might truly transcend the right-left divide.
For those of us who believe in this work, we know from experience that if we have the patience to listen to the deeper interests behind a rigid position, some progress is possible. But it is also best to let go of any notion of a quick win. Trying to bypass the militant defenses of the anti-bridging mindset, whether it is on the left or right, is rarely productive.
In summary, it is important to realize that they have reasons, either political or personal, for their high level of mistrust. All of our fellow citizens need to be heard and know they have been. We know that some of this may sound naive to those deep in their own army's trench. Even the major media on the left and right show nothing but disdain for those who think that more common ground is possible. That's why this work is so hard, but also why it is so important. If we take the time and care to understand other perspectives and build trust, we may be surprised by what we can do together.
Until our next column, we hope our thoughts trigger some of your own. Please email us with your reactions, questions or points of view at email@example.com. We would love to hear from you.
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September 24, 2021
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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.
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September 24, 2021
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Could ranked choice voting soon arrive ino the nation's most populous state? That is the goal of a new coalition which officially launched earlier this week.
The California RCV Coalition introduced itself to the public Tuesday, at a point when ranked-choice voting is having a moment. RCV is the fast-spreading voting reform, and coalition members hope California will build on both the popularity and success of reform efforts.
"There has been a lot of momentum in the state," said Tom Charron, who represented the group in a recent interview with IVN. "We've been seeing the results of ranked-choice voting, and the positive effects it has had on local elections, but what there hasn't been is the momentum at a statewide level."
Charron said the goal of the coalition is twofold: Over the long-run, achieve statewide RCV adoption, and, in the short term,offer support to local RCV campaigns to spread the use of the alternative voting method in the state.
Coalition members understand that getting RCV passed at the statewide level is going to be a long game. Garnering the support and resources to launch such an endeavor in the largest state will take time, accoding to Charron says.
Voters in the Golden State are not completely unfamiliar with RCV, so the coalition will have some foundation from which to work. RCV is already used in a handful of municipalities, including two major cities: San Francisco and Oakland. Albany, Eureka, and Palm Desert are slated to implement ranked-choice voting in 2022.
RCV allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference on the ballot. When voting is done, the first choice results are tabulated. If no candidate gets over 50 percent of the vote, an instant round of runoff is held. The last-place candidate is eliminated and their voters' next choice is applied to the totals. This process repeats until a candidate has at a majority of the vote. Proponents argue that such a system ensures the winner represents a majority while eliminating the cost of a runoff election.
Advocates also say the new voting method can help temper the hyper-partisanship that has become a stain on the U.S. electoral and political processes. RCV changes the incentive system when candidates have to think about appealing to voters to earn second, third, or fourth choice positioning. They can't tear down the voter's first choice, and they have to find commonality with other candidates in order to get the attention of voters outside their base of support.
"It's clear if we keep on this path, we're in store for a less functional future," he said. "Our government representatives are just going to be at each other's throats."
Opponents of RCV argue that the voting method is too complicated for voters to understand. Yet, advocates point to a history of exit polls in RCV jurisdictions that show voters like it and want to continue using it.
For example, New York City held its first RCV primary elections in June, and not only did the city see the largest turnout since 1999, but 77 percent of respondents said they want to keep using the voting method.
Charron also commented on the nonpartisan nature of ranked-choice voting. It is not a reform that explicitly benefits a single party, and it has garnered cross-partisan support. While some might point to the traditionally "blue" jurisdictions in which RCV is being adopted, it has also gained significant ground in traditionally "red" jurisdictions like Utah and Alaska, where it was adopted for statewide elections.
"Across the board, in terms of how [RCV] is implemented, there is no favoritism for one party or the other," said Charron. "It is supported by groups and individuals and elected representatives who are forward-thinking, and are looking to get more accurate representation, and they come from the left and the right."
Members of the California RCV Coalition also span the political spectrum, and the group will continue to bring in new members as they get to work on ranked-choice voting initiatives. The group's launch was a big milestone, and Charron says he expects many new individual supporters and volunteers to come in that will work directly with the coalition.
"We welcome anyone who is interested in promoting RCV in California to become a supporter and a volunteer for our organization, and have a voice in what our strategy is going to be," he said.
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