The 2020 election and subsequent insurrection were new additions to the long trend of political polarization in the United States. Many Americans do not relate to one another and vote to spite the other rather than advance one's self interest. This trend in society has led to political movements built solely on memes and archetypes of an enemy/other.
These movements are not new, but have gained a new prominence in the social media age. One of the biggest casualties of this breaking of society is critical thinking and variable information.
One example of polarization based on a misconception is the difference between socialism and a strong safety net. The difference between these two concepts has been lost in mainstream politics and caused unnecessary divisiveness and a lack of progress.
Webster defines socialism as any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods. An example of socialism is ownership of a company by a union of workers as well as employee stock ownership programs. An example of a worker-owned company is WinCo Foods, where employees are able to participate in an employee stock ownership plan after working at least 500 hours in their first six months. The core concept and goal of socialism is the democratization of profits based on work contributed rather than purely the position one holds.
A social safety net is defined as something that provides security against misfortune or difficulty, which usually translates to government programs and services like Social Security, Medicare and unemployment subsidies. These programs are funded by various taxes and open to eligible Americans. Oftentimes, social safety programs help business directly though programs like low-interest small-business loans, PPP loans, bailouts and product subsidies. The goal of these programs is to help maintain the capitalist economies as the funds maintain consumerism through participation in the market.
We are now seeing a lot of discussion around socialism when it comes to raising the minimum wage and the expansion of unemployment benefits. These issues have come up as a cause of the current labor shortage in the United States. Due to the expanded unemployment benefits many Americans are making more money staying at home than they were working full-time for minimum wage. The debate between our political parties and the media is whether the minimum wage should be raised and when extra unemployment benefits should be phased out. Many politicians on the right are calling these two policies socialist even though they are just aspects of a safety net in a capitalist system.
These two ideologies have often been twisted and confused on both sides of the political spectrum. They both aim to promote general welfare but through different means. Oftentimes, people requesting social safety policies are called "socialist" as a means to discredit the idea and sidetrack the true conversation on the merits of the policy itself. For example, Republican Sen. Bill Hagerty of Tennessee went on Fox News and called the 2021 stimulus package a "Democrat wish list of socialist programs" — a criticism that at its core is unfounded.
The 2021 stimulus does not mandate stock democratization or worker unionization but rather provides support to workers, businesses and municipalities to maintain their current (capitalist) economic systems in a time of global economic fallout. The problem with this mischaracterization is that it increases polarization amongst Americans causing the deep divides we see today. It is OK to argue the merits of socialism and capitalism, but this is something different. This is demonizing capitalist policies using the negative feelings associated with socialism and countries that have attempted it.
The ideas of "unity" and "coming together" are amazing goals that every American should strive for. These ideals of unity are in line with the words of the preamble to the Constitution, which states "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." A more perfect union requires many things but at its core it requires good faith and adequate information. In order to take the ideas of bipartisanship, unity and coming together out of the category of empty political platitudes and into action we must put down petty political weapons.
Debating the merits and externalities of social safety net programs is necessary and valuable in a free and just society, but framing these policies through the lense of socialism as a means to turn the public against a policy only hurts American citizens. Issues like poverty and public health are experiences that millions of Americans on both sides can identify with and can come together on. They just need to be given the correct information to make a critical choice.
When we as a country prioritize good faith over political expediency, we can truly start to advance and unify. The American divide is not between those who love socialism and those who hate it, it's between those fighting for a more equitable society and those who propagate false information to maintain power.
- Proper governance requires better civic education - The Fulcrum ›
- Sentrism: A new word for a needed brand of politics ›
- It's time to reframe the United States - The Fulcrum ›
Conservative Americans' adherence to disinformation spread by QAnon runs deeper than previously believed, recent polling found.
Although just one in 10 adults who self-identify as center-right have a favorable view of QAnon, a survey conducted by Citizen Data found that 62 percent of conservatives believe in at least one core conspiracy theory born from the movement. This analysis, released Friday, is the first part of Citizen Data's year-long project "to deeply understand" the American political right. Future analyses will be focused on voting access, electoral reform, Covid-19 and climate change, among other topics.
Conservatives with a favorable view of QAnon were more likely to believe in multiple conspiracy theories. More than two-thirds of those favorable toward QAnon rated three or more theories as true, compared to one-fifth of those who are unsure about QAnon, and 12 percent of those who are unfavorable.
Citizen Data — which is led by former third-party vice presidential candidate Mindy Finn and provides data resources for nonpartisan and cross-partisan groups — found that 60 percent of Republicans believe the movement's original and baseless conspiracy theory that a global network of pedophiles are torturing and sexually abusing children in satanic rituals. This is a huge increase from last fall when a separate survey found only a third of conservatives believed this was true.
More than half of the respondents also erroneously believe Donald Trump to be the winner of the 2020 election. Those who endorse the "Big Lie," compared to those who reject it, were nearly three times as likely to have a favorable view of QAnon (16 percent versus 6 percent) and half as likely to have an unfavorable view (29 percent versus 61 percent).
A significant number of conservatives also accepted as true conspiracy theories about the coronavirus pandemic and the Covid-19 vaccine:
- 16 percent said they believe vaccines contained tracking chips.
- 23 percent said they believe the coronavirus pandemic is a hoax.
- 24 percent said they believe the government is covering up a link between Covid-19 and autism.
One-third of the Republicans surveyed said they would not get the Covid-19 vaccine.
Additionally, Citizen Data found that racial attitudes among white conservatives (92 percent of those surveyed) were powerful predictors of QAnon favorability and belief. While the survey did not explicitly say belief in QAnon was correlated with white supremacy, it did find that respondents with strong senses of white identity and hostility toward people of color were more likely to support QAnon.
QAnon belief was also found to be more prevalent among young Republicans. One-third of conservatives under 35 who participated in the 2020 primary and general elections gave QAnon a positive rating, compared to 22 percent of older voters who did the same.
Differences in how men and women view QAnon were significant in the contexts of educational attainment and political knowledge. Women without a bachelor's degree were more likely to believe in the conspiracy theories than men with the same education level. Conversely, men with little political knowledge favored QAnon more than women with the same unfamiliarity with politics.
Overall, respondents who reported higher levels of political knowledge were less likely to believe in QAnon conspiracy theories, regardless of their news consumption habits. This finding in particular points to an opportunity for countering the spread of these falsehoods.
"Increasing political engagement and political education may help to inoculate American society against conspiracy movements," the survey found.
Citizen Data surveyed 5,918 American adults who identify as center-right between May 16 and June 3. The margin of error was 1.4 percentage points.
- Some Republicans pick democracy over Trump - The Fulcrum ›
- Podcast: How to address the disinformation problem - The Fulcrum ›
- Disinformation: remain calm and do not spread - The Fulcrum ›
The battle between facts and lies, truth and untruth, is one of the most pressing issues democracies face.
Peter Pomerantsev, author and a senior fellow at the London School of Economics and the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University, joins The McCourtney Institute for Democracy's podcast, "Democracy Works," to discuss the scope of the problem and how to move forward.
- New online tools ease reporting of election misinformation ›
- News Literacy Project unveils app aimed at adults, students - The ... ›
- The next generation can save democracy globally — with help - The ... ›
- Podcast: America coming together - The Fulcrum ›
- Poll finds conservatives believe QAnon conspiracy theories - The Fulcrum ›
Colorado's inaugural congressional redistricting commission, which operates outside of the purview of politicians, has already faced its first partisan test.
Chairman Danny Moore was removed from his leadership position Monday after his fellow commissioners learned he had shared conspiracy theories about the 2020 election on social media. The 11 other commissioners voted unanimously to remove him from the chairmanship, but he will be allowed to continue serving on the commission.
While politicians still have mapmaking power in most of the country, Colorado is one of a handful of states that adopted a redistricting commission over the last decade. For the first time, these states will employ an independent panel to redraw congressional and state legislative maps in a more fair and transparent manner.
In 2018, Colorado voters approved ballot initiatives to establish separate commissions for congressional and state legislative redistricting. Each commission has 12 members with even representation of Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated members, none of them politicians.
Last month, Moore, a Republican military veteran from Colorado Springs, was elected by the commissioners to serve as chair. But soon after, local media outlets reported he had shared election conspiracy theories on his Facebook page.
His posts claimed, without evidence, that Joe Biden was not elected by the people, but "by the Democratic steal." He also erroneously claimed that absentee ballots can be modified by mail carriers and poll workers. And he encouraged Republicans to use the courts to "erase those gains" Democrats made in the 2020 election.
"How then can the people of Colorado believe Commissioner Moore will be able to determine fact from fiction, when he's repeatedly asserted unsubstantiated claims that the presidential election was stolen, the Colorado election in particular was fraudulent, and that 'Blue state officials' in Colorado disenfranchise some voters by manipulating the vote," said Democratic Commissioner Paula Espinoza.
Moore has also used social media to cast doubt on the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic and has accused the media of lying about it. He defended calling Covid-19 "the Chinese virus," saying that was not racist. But critics of Moore's posts said his rhetoric has contributed to the trend of anti-Asian hate and violence.
Ahead of the commission's vote, Moore defended his posts, arguing he had the right to free speech and to his own opinions.
"My comments were intended to create a broader discussion around political correctness and the problems that are impacting our society. I meant no harm or malice against any group or any person," Moore said.
Seven commissioners expressed their disappointment in Moore's actions and called on him to resign as chairman. But Moore refused to do so and instead asked the commission to vote on the matter. After some discussion and advice from the state attorney general's office, the commission proceeded to vote for his removal from the top spot..
Carly Hare, an unaffiliated member who previously served as vice chair, will now take over as chair of the commission.
- End to prison gerrymandering in Colorado could shift power - The ... ›
- Voters took the lead on political change in 2018 - The Fulcrum ›
- In most states, the redistricting rules remain the same - The Fulcrum ›