As a Republican President in the states is undergoing an impeachment trial the Republican Party is also going under many trials. For the last few decades the Republican Party has engaged in gerrymandering to ensure that their party wins instead for the Democrats (or independents). This modification of electoral maps has been argued to be everything from racist to classist and everything in between. The predominantly old, white, and male Republican Party has been denying all the allegations against them, and now they’ve met their match.
The daughter of the leader of the gerrymandering effort, Stephanie Hofeller, has released documents that prove true all the Republicans are denying in the courts. Sometimes it takes one brave person to speak up to help ensure a nation’s democracy can continue.
Stephanie says she connected with the North Carolina chapter of Common Cause, an advocacy group that had brought a lawsuit against Republican state officials to overturn political maps Thomas Hofeller helped draw. After mentioning the hard drives to Common Cause, Stephanie received a court order to turn them over as potential evidence for the lawsuit. She did so in March after making a copy of some of the files for herself.
Since then, the Hofeller files have led to bombshell developments in two major legal battles in the political world.
In September, Common Cause won its legal challenge to political maps in North Carolina, where a state court cited some of the files as evidence of gerrymandering designed to unfairly give Republicans an advantage in winning elections and maintaining control of the state legislature.
Tishaura Jones, the first female treasurer of St. Louis, set out to improve her city through good design. Through her own struggles dealing with the city’s bureaucracy she identified many problems with how information is presented, she noted she wasn’t the only one running into bad design. Jones decided to do something about it; the policies were there but nobody knew how to understand them since the information was presented in a Byzantine way. She has led St. Louis to alter how information gets communicated to its citizens.
As treasurer of St. Louis, she used two key design techniques to improve policy delivery and outcomes. First, she reached out to other cities that had prototyped and tested new, human-centered policies. Building on what other cities had learned allowed St. Louis to springboard forward instead of getting stuck reinventing wheels. Second, she brought together policy and processes, applying people-centered design to the rules that governed services and the delivery of them. By building connective tissue between policy, process, and people, Jones was able to built new trust in old institutions to deliver real change impacting residents’ lives.
Justin King, policy director of the family-centered social policy program at New America, where I did research, has spent his career working on issues at the intersection of children’s lives and government policies. “Tishaura and Jose before her are reinventing what’s possible inside government,” he says. “People see the state and municipal government, in a lot of cases, as a predator on them and their communities . . . [Their work] is against the tide. It is really positive and really innovative and really worth talking about.”
2016 witnessed the election of Donald Trump thanks in a large part to Russian meddling in the American democratic process. One of the most effective things that the Russians did was lie and spread contradictory information to make it hard for people to discern reality. Trump’s marketing skills made use of these Russian efforts to convince people to vote for him (by a very small margin and still lost the popular vote). How do we get out from the propaganda launched by Russia, Trump, and others?
The answer might just be late night comedians. Yes, a country run by a celebrity famous for being born rich will be saved by other rich celebrities. At the very least it’ll be great to see elevated discourse!
This is all to show that there is now proof that the mainstreaming of lies in the Trump era is indeed rotting our brains. It was first thought that one way to prevent the spread of false information would be to flag it by third-party fact checking, but the study cited above showed that that effort did not sufficiently help.
And that’s where the comedians come in. Thus far there have been no studies that have compared cognitive processing of satire with cognitive processing of falsehoods. But there is significant research to show that it may well be true that the best cognitive defense against Trump era falsehoods is satirical comedy. We know, for instance, that those who consume sarcasm are smarter, more creative and better at reading context. All are useful tools to process lies.
What is most interesting is that processing falsehoods and processing certain types of satire appears to follow a very similar cognitive path. In both cases, the brain has to be able to distinguish between what is said and what is true. And in both cases the brain has to reconcile ambiguity, incongruence and the misuse of words. It further has to process tone, context and body language to infer meaning.
We knew back when Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were on Comedy Central that their viewers were among the most informed on issues of any group consuming news. But now the role of satire in informing the public may be even more important — satirists may be the one thing that is keeping analytical thinkers engaged.
So far in 2018 a car driver has killed a person every week; if this continues Toronto will see yet another year in which more people die from vehicles than guns. Automobile advocates argue that it’s the victim’s fault for dying and demand stricter punishment for trivial things like jaywalking. Clearly, the debate in Canada needs to change. In America the situation is worse, the pro-car (and historically pro-wealth) policies around pedestrians for walking are being used for reasons beyond protecting drivers from hitting flesh. Sadly, in the USA jaywalking is used by police to target minority populations – and people are already working to change this.
The solutions is clear: don’t let trivial issues like jaywalking be policed the way they are today.
Jaywalking is a trivial crime, one that virtually every person has committed multiple times in their life. This makes it susceptible to arbitrary enforcement. Sacramento’s black residents are five times more likely to receive a jaywalking citation than their non-black neighbors. Seattle police handed out 28 percent of jaywalking citations from 2010 to 2016 to black pedestrians, who only make up 7 percent of the city’s population.
Eliminating jaywalking and similar offenses won’t lead to anarchy on American roads. It’s not illegal in countries like the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, for example, and both countries enjoy markedly fewer traffic fatalities than the United States. It’s not clear how much money flows into state coffers from pedestrian tickets, but it’s likely far less than traffic tickets for drivers. Any lost income may also be offset by the savings for police departments. Fewer unnecessary contacts between officers and citizens means fewer costly lawsuits and officer dismissals.
The inability to easily take action is a leading factor in why people don’t engage in political change. The creators of a new service, Resistbot, want to make it simple for Americans to have their voices heard. Resistbot is a bot you can interact with via SMS or using it has a plugin to Telegram or Facebook Messenger. For now, it has simple services but has it grows more abilities are being added to help people connect, organize, and have their voices heard.
Text RESIST to Resistbot on Telegram, Messenger, or to 50409 on SMS* and I’ll find out who represents you in Congress, and deliver your message to them in under 2 minutes. No downloads or apps required.
After I help you write or call Congress, your state governor, or the White House, you’ll discover more of what I can do: like town hall lookups, daily reminders, and opportunities for volunteering. New features are being added all the time.
So keep it personal, unscripted, and be persistent. Here are a few users who’ve gotten letters back or read more frequently asked questions.
Check out Resistbot.