Daily Resource Highlight 3/01/2021

Posted by on March 01, 2021 at 5:43 PM

Below are the highlights and featured resources of this past week’s Daily* Resource.

2/23/2021 -  Getting Back to the Classroom: Easy Answer, Hard Questions

As COVID vaccines become more accessible, we are going to have to decide how and when to return to “normal.” We will also have to decide what parts of the old “normal” to bring into the new. 

One area where there’s widespread agreement is education. Everybody believes that a return to in-person learning is critical, but we’re having difficulties figuring out how to get from here to there. Philip K. Howard of Common Good argues that it’s safe to open schools as long as certain protocols are followed, and blames public sector unions for standing in the way. The unions, for their part, insist they want to get back to class, but that educator safety must be assured.

Jennifer Thompson at Civil Squared implores us to resist the “either/or” and “us vs. them” mentalities that tend to dominate these discussions, and work together to achieve our common goal. This, of course, is easier said than done. I’m beating a well worn drum here, but our nation is experiencing a period of intense and toxic polarization, the effects of which have only worsened with the rise of social media (James Coan of AllSides recently wrote about Facebook’s new anti-polarization policies).

At some point, classrooms will open back up and in-person learning will be the norm once again. To get there, though, will require good-faith debate, ingenuity, accountability, and perseverance. We know that many members of the Bridge Alliance are working hard to make that happen and counteract the damaging effects of school closures. We look forward to continuing to support their work.


2/26/2021 - Competitive Third Parties: Sorely Needed, Not Possible (Yet)

Nick Troiano of Unite America recently wrote about the hunger for competitive third parties in the United States. Half of Americans identify as independent and 62% want a new party, but our electoral systems at best discourage and at worst bar independent voters from participating and independent candidates from competing. 

According to Ballotpedia and Open Primaries, only three states have top-two primaries, and less than half of states have open primary systems. Additionally, while Ranked Choice Voting and Approval Voting are gathering momentum as alternative voting systems, single-vote / plurality-wins is still the norm. In other words, the Democratic and Republican parties have done an excellent job of fortifying their positions as the only two real choices for voters.

This would be fine if the two parties did a good job of representing the totality of the American electorate. As Nick shows, however, they don’t. The Republican Party is divided between voters who want Trump to lead the party (60%) and those who want a new leader (38%), and the Democratic Party is roughly evenly divided between Biden (more moderate) Democrats and Sanders/Warren (more progressive) Democrats.

Under the current system, these four factions are forced into two uneasy alliances. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. It is possible to empower independent voters and candidates if we so choose, and Bridge Alliance member organizations like Unite America, Open Primaries, IndependentVoting.org, FairVote, Center for Election Science, and others are showing the path. 

It’s up to us, as Americans, to decide if we want to follow the path.