It’s the end of the year and time for a look back at the five issues that helped define 2020 for me. They are worth highlighting as they won’t be going away anytime soon.
Amplification of Violence (especially by Republicans for Political Gain)
The news over-reports violent crime because it generates interest and clicks and views even as it doesn’t reflect American life. For example, violent crime is sharply declining and has been for decades. Yet, most Americans believe that it is increasing.
Republicans frequently exploit this for political gain (detailed here and here). They curated Black Lives Matter protests to make largely peaceful demonstrations appear as chaotic masses of destruction. The country, according to them, is on the brink of anarchy. It’s not.
Pay attention to how the news is reporting violence and do not let them. We have enough scary problems to deal with.
There is a strange idea that including politics in stories is in opposition to entertainment. It is built on a flawed idea of what is political and a strange dichotomy between story and politics.
There is no such thing as an a-political story. Take a romance storyline for example. Inevitably, it will advocate for certain types of love. Many might regard a homosexual romance as more political than a heterosexual one. Certainly, a romance involving transgender characters would be considered political by many. The stories are all equally political, merely differing in whether they challenge or reaffirm the status quo. For, the status quo is political. It just hides in plain sight.
Much of the conflict in my stories, and stories in general, results from the characters’ goals and opinions. Inevitably, the origin of much these world-views is political. The best stories consider the ramifications of their politics because it is a crucial aspect of the story. This does not mean that reading or watching stories must be some form of political exercise. Still, politics are always there, and if you don’t view politics as opposed to entertainment, but a crucial part of the experience, you might find a whole range of stories vastly more fulfilling.
It is Time for Ranked Choice Voting
According to a Gallup poll, 57% of Americans believe we need a third, major party. Yet, the American electoral system’s winner take all result is very unkind to third parties. You could win 15 percent of the vote and get no representation. No one, understandably, wants to take a risk on voting third party. Thus, the Democratic and Republican parties maintain a stranglehold over our politics.
Ranked choice voting (for a full investigation of this see here) can help solve the problem. It allows people to rank their candidates in a list. When a voter’s preferred candidate is eliminated in the race because they have the least votes, their vote goes towards someone that is still in the running. Your vote will count. People can more safely vote for the candidate that best represents them without worrying about throwing their vote away — even if it is for a third-party candidate, allowing third parties to become more viable.
Additionally, ranked choice voting can save time and money. It can eliminate costly run-offs, such as the ones in Georgia, and reform our unfair and overly time-consuming presidential primaries.
There is a centrist idea that somehow the middle is the most reasonable. This idea is built on the assumption that the center is fixed rather than malleable and that the government accurately represents the American people. Neither are true.
If a progressive were to find themselves in a country like Canada with Medicare for All, they would be more in step with government healthcare policies and it would be the centrists having to push for their ideology. On a whole host of issues from Climate Change to Healthcare, the U.S. government is out of step with the American people. Centrists are not being more accommodating. Their ideology simply aligns with the current government and they are fighting to keep it that way against the will of a majority of the American people.
A similar tactic holds that progressives hurt the Democratic party’s overall chance of winning races. Recently, this was repeated after Democrats lost seats in the House. The thinking goes that their agendas, like defund the police, are too extreme and progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez should be quiet.
There are a number of ways this view is simply wrongheaded (see here). Most blatantly, it is anti-democratic. Progressives like Bernie Sanders and AOC were elected specifically because they are vocal progressives. For them to be quiet would be a betrayal of the people that elected them. If you run an unapologetically progressive campaign and win — that means the people you represent want you to be a progressive.
Society has always censured opinions that it deemed unacceptable. In the McCarthy era, communism was vigorously suppressed. As a piece on cancel culture notes “marginalized voices have been silenced for generations in journalism, academia, and publishing.” Picture a Venn diagram, with circles of different ideologies all intersecting in the middle. Everything in the middle is acceptable, with fringe opinions lying outside generally deemed unacceptable. This dynamic has always been at the center of human society.
Much of what is classified as cancel culture is the center being challenged. Voices that were traditionally marginalized such as BlackLivesMatter, LGBT+ activists, climate activists, progressive political movements are trying to force their way into the mainstream. And as could be expected people safely ensconced within the mainstream react negatively, creating turmoil as opinions become more extreme in the exchange. The middle space of the Venn diagram is becoming increasingly tenuous as overlap between opinions ceases to exist and people try to drag the center in their direction.
None of this is to say that intolerance is not an issue. I am on Twitter. However, the solution isn’t a return to a more tolerant time. That time never really existed. It makes more sense to get to the root of the issue and accept that cancel culture is a fight over new norms for the center. Rather than merely decrying cancel culture, we should focus efforts on crafting a center that is more just and inclusive than the old one.