Daily Resource Highlight - 3/21/2022

Posted by on March 21, 2022 at 2:12 PM

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

March 15, 2022 - What Kind of Policy Does Electoral Pressure Produce?

Back in 2013, the Daily Show’s John Oliver interviewed an aide to former Senator Harry Reid. He asked, “What makes a politician successful?” The aide responded, “Getting reelected by his or her constituents.” John was – understandably – shocked by that answer and, after an awkward exchange, the now sheepish aide admitted that they should have said “passing legislation” first.

That interview has stuck with me for obvious reasons. But what are the policy implications of that “get (re)elected” mindset? I don’t think they are necessarily bad – don’t we want our representatives to care about our preferences? That said, we know that most members of Congress are effectively elected during the primary season (Unite America). And in many states, legislatures have passed “extreme gerrymanders” that all but assure one party’s grip on power (Issue One), which only add to the importance of the primaries.

This dynamic means that the audience for election-driven policy is primary voters, and that makes me nervous when the resulting policy can have far-reaching implications. For instance, are primary election concerns behind the recent push to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (Our Civic Genius)? (Section 230 protects social media companies from liability for content posted on their platforms)

As we gear up for the 2022 Midterms (ActiVote), I encourage you to think about the goals of your representatives. Was Reid’s aide correct that the ultimate mission is reelection? And if that’s true, are you OK with that? If your answer is “no,” would your opinion change if general elections were more competitive?

Also remember that it’s not just lawmakers that are campaigning. Law enforcers are also running for office this Fall, with more than half the States holding elections for Attorney General (Virginia Center for Politics). How these future AGs choose to enforce (or not enforce) the law could have significant consequences, so it’s worth considering their incentives as well.

March 17, 2022 - It’s OK To Be Angry, But Public Servants Don’t Deserve Our Ire

When it comes to the government, we have a lot to be angry about. It’s why, despite my strong interest in politics and current events, I’ve stopped watching the news, and am very selective in what I read and what I listen to. Everything is borderline triggering.

But my anger turns to sympathy when I think about the millions of people working behind the scenes to keep our country functioning. Come election season, there will be thousands of election officials across the country who will be doing their best to ensure our votes are counted. These people are your neighbors (Issue One podcast) and deserve our respect.

Between elections, it’s the same situation. Congressional Management Foundation has published a multi-part blog series on how Congress needs to foster trust; embrace First Amendment rights; aggregate and analyze data from diverse sources; etc. If Congress implements CMF’s recommendations, most of the work will be done by underpaid staffers who are working long hours.

The same is true at the local level where, as shown by this report on Palm Beach County collaborations by Everyday Democracy, most public officials – including law enforcement – want to do a good job. And that report shows the lengths many will go to in order to improve their community.

Again, there’s a lot to be angry about. As discussed on the How Do We Fix It podcast, politicians are using gerrymandering to ensure their reelection is a given (Issue One report). Meanwhile, party officials from both parties are trying to nip popular electoral reforms in the bud (in this case RCV).

However, these legitimate frustrations with our elected officials, along with many understandable others, cannot be used as an excuse to mistreat public servants. Aside from the moral imperative to treat our fellow humans well, there’s also a practical imperative. If accepting a job in the public sector means also accepting significant abuse, the best and brightest among us simply won’t take those jobs. And that – in the long run – can only harm our great nation.