We have left the Maricopa Election Center. Staff there says they have NOT been evacuated & will stay there until they post results. That being said, as our crew left the crowd of protestors claiming the vote was being stolen from the president had grown larger & louder. @NBCNews
Congressman Paul Gosar in the middle of this protest outside the county recorder’s office. Protestors, many armed, talking about debunked Sharpie conspiracy. Some chanting “count the vote.” County deputies now clearing reporters from the lobby out of caution. #12Newspic.twitter.com/3yyMBiF3dU
Missouri, New Jersey, and Virginia are all voting on measures that affect redistricting. In Missouri, Republicans placed a misleading amendment on the ballot that would effectively gut a reform that voters overwhelmingly passed in 2018 to make legislative redistricting fairer, trying to trick voters into repealing the reform by attaching token ethics reforms.
In New Jersey, Democrats have put an amendment on the ballot to delay legislative redistricting until the 2023 elections if the release of census data is delayed. The move is intended to protect incumbents from having to run in new districts for an extra two years to the detriment of New Jersey’s growing Asian and Latino populations, whose rightful share of representation would be delayed if the amendment passes.
In an extremely unusual move in Virginia, the state’s Democratic legislature allowed an amendment to pass with GOP support that would see Democrats surrender their own power to gerrymander and instead create a bipartisan commission appointed half by legislators from both parties and the other half chosen by retired judges. This reform was a compromise with Republican legislators and includes some flaws, but on the whole it should lead to relatively nonpartisan districts for Congress and the state legislature after 2020 if it becomes law.
Electoral System Reform
Efforts to replace the existing electoral system with something that more faithfully implements voters’ preferences are on the ballot in several jurisdictions. These measures take aim at the existing system of plurality-winner elections that can see a third candidate play “spoiler” and cost the runner-up a victory. They all aim to ensure majority rule, but not all may end up having a positive effect.
In Alaska and Massachusetts, voters could adopt variants of instant-runoff voting (also known as ranked-choice voting) in congressional and state elections. This system, which Maine adopted in 2016 and expanded in 2019, lets voters rank their preferences and sequentially eliminates the last-place finisher by reassigning their votes to each voter’s subsequent preference until one candidate attains a majority. Such systems cut down on the spoiler problem and help to protect majority rule. Alaska’s measure would use a variant where the top four finishers in an all-party primary would advance to an instant-runoff general election. (It would use a regular instant-runoff for the presidency.)
A more novel reform to plurality-winner elections is going before voters in St. Louis, Missouri. This approach would adopt a variation of so-called “approval voting,” letting voters cast up to one vote for each candidate and having whichever two candidates receive the most votes in the first round advance to the general election. This system aims to avoid some of the complications of instant-runoff voting but is largely untested in real elections, unlike instant-runoff voting, which has a long history both domestically at the local level and abroad.
A Florida initiative that would implement a top two “primary” for state-level elections could have disastrous effects for partisan fairness and Black and Latino representation. This system is in use in California and Washington and has seen major parties get shut out of winnable general elections solely because their vote was split between too many candidates in the primary. It could also make it much harder for Black voters especially to elect their chosen candidates and is facing a lawsuit that could invalidate it for that reason.
Finally, Mississippi’s GOP-led legislature, in the face of a lawsuit, has placed an amendment on the ballot to repeal part of its 1890 Jim Crow constitution that created an Electoral College-esque system for determining the winner in elections for governor and other statewide executive offices. This system has been further strained by GOP gerrymandering, such that it would be impossible for Democrats and the Black voters who support them to ever win statewide. This reform would require majority support to avoid a runoff, a method that is not ideal but is nevertheless fairer than the status quo.
Restrictions on the Ballot Initiative Process
Republicans across the country have gerrymandered their maps and passed widespread restrictions on voting, leaving direct democracy as a critical tool for fighting back against these efforts to entrench GOP minority rule. Republicans have responded by trying to restrict the initiative process to preserve their power and have advanced measures in Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota that would make it harder for reformers to place new measures of their own on the ballot in the future.
Bans on Noncitizen Voting
Republicans in Alabama, Colorado, and Florida are supporting amendments that would rewrite their constitutions to emphasize that only citizens may vote. While these measures would have no effect on the status quo, they would prevent local governments from experimenting with letting legal permanent residents who lack citizenship still vote in local elections, something a handful of small localities in the U.S. and many European democracies already allow.
Efforts to Lower the Voting Age
Lowering the voting age to 16 is an idea that has quietly grown in popularity in recent years. A handful of small localities already allow the practice in local elections, and a majority of the House Democratic caucus voted in favor of doing so federally last year. A number of foreign democracies such as Austria and Brazil already allow 16-year-olds to vote, and San Francisco could become the first major city in America to lower the voting age to 16 in local elections. Just to the east, the city of Oakland could lower the voting age for school board elections, and all of California could join a growing number of states letting 17-year-olds vote in primaries if they’ll turn 18 by the general election.
Puerto Rico will once again vote on whether to become a state, and while the measure is not legally binding, it could spur Congress to act on passing an admission bill if Democrats retake the Senate and eliminate the filibuster. Statehood would mean that more than 3 million American citizens would gain representation in the House and Senate. It would also modestly mitigate the upper chamber’s bias against voters of color and potentially lessen its partisan bias toward the GOP, too.
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which would assign a state’s votes in the Electoral College to the national popular vote winner if states with a majority of electoral votes sign on, has gained steam since Trump’s election in 2016 and saw Colorado become the first swing state to join in 2019. However, Colorado Republicans have fought back by putting an initiative on the ballot to repeal the law joining the compact. The outcome of the vote could encourage Democrats in other swing states to follow Colorado’s lead, or deter them.
Finally, Oregon is one of the last states that allows individuals to donate unlimited sums of money directly to candidates in state elections, but that may soon change. A state Supreme Court ruling earlier this year overturned a precedent that had barred limits on campaign contributions, and now Democrats have placed an amendment on the ballot to codify lawmakers’ ability to regulate campaign donations and ensure that the existence of such limits and disclosure requirements isn’t dependent upon the ever-changing composition of the courts.
Rigging outcomes on Election Day, by stuffing ballot boxes or changing vote tallies, has become more difficult in recent years, said Mathias Hounkpe, a specialist in political governance at the Open Society Initiative West Africa. Politicians are changing their tactics as a result, he said.
“Little by little, those in power are realizing that it’s becoming harder to cheat,” Mr. Hounkpe said in an online debate. “They use the means they have to keep the political space in check.”
Across French-speaking West Africa, civic space is shrinking, so that citizens trying to hold their governments to account face repressive laws, arrest and sometimes death, according to a report to be published by the global nonprofit Civicus.
Case in point: recent deadly clashes in Guinea, over the new constitution pushed by the country’s first democratically elected president, Alpha Condé.
His success at maneuvering to stay in power is partly the fault of Western negligence, said Cellou Dalein Diallo, the Guinean opposition leader.
“The Europeans are less attentive, and the Americans, with the arrival of Trump, are less demanding when it comes to democracy and human rights,” Mr. Diallo said on a recent campaign trip to Dakar, Senegal, where a large Guinean diaspora lives.
U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo issued a two-paragraph statement last week about “upcoming elections in Africa,” warning that “repression and intimidation have no place in democracies.” But many Africans commented on social media that such a skimpy, blanket statement about the continent, rather than specific countries, was evidence that there is little interest from the administration of President Trump, who denigrated African countries with a memorable epithet in 2018.
Let’s talk politics and lies. Why are they so rampant today? In today’s Psych Central Podcast, our host speaks with author and communications expert Tim Ward who explains why the truth matters so much — especially regarding our elected officials. They discuss our cognitive biases, like the “halo” and “anchoring” effects, that can cause us to turn a blind eye and believe the lies we hear.
Learn about the different types of lies politicians tell and learn how can we avoid being the victims of fake news. Click on the player above to listen now!
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Tim Ward is co-owner of Intermedia Communications Training, Inc. Based in the Washington D.C. area, he works with global organizations helping them communicate better. He is a former print journalist, and the author of ten books. Tim is also publisher of Changemakers Books. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with his wife and business partner Teresa.
About The Psych Central Podcast Host
Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations, available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author.To learn more about Gabe, please visit his website, gabehoward.com.
Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Post-Truth Era’Episode
Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.
Announcer: You’re listening to the Psych Central Podcast, where guest experts in the field of psychology and mental health share thought-provoking information using plain, everyday language. Here’s your host, Gabe Howard.
Gabe Howard: Hello, everyone, and welcome to this week’s episode of The Psych Central Podcast, I’m your host Gabe Howard and calling into the show today, we have Tim Ward. Tim is the coauthor of the book Pro Truth: A Practical Plan for Putting Truth Back Into Politics with previous guest, Dr. Gleb Tsipursky. Tim, welcome to the show.
Tim Ward: It is my pleasure to be with you today and thank you to your listeners for inviting us both into their minds.
Gabe Howard: Tim, I’m really glad to have you. Now, you and Dr. Tsipursky’s book is advertised as, and I’m reading this, this book sets out a practical plan to make truth matter in the 2020 elections. Find out how citizens can turn back the tide of post truth, politics, fake news and misinformation. Now, that’s a big statement. And frankly, it sounds like something that I would expect to hear from a politician that you kind of roll your eyes and think you can’t do that. Can you address this?
Tim Ward: Well, you’re right, I can’t do that, but we can do it. People are sick and tired of hearing politicians lie to them. They’ve realized that it not only affects their jobs, their world, but their health, when people lie about the pandemic and what’s causing it and what we can do to protect ourselves. So, if you elect people because they lie well, you’re going to end up with people who govern lying well. It’s all connected. And I think the people in America don’t want to live in a post truth society where truth doesn’t matter. Truth does matter. And we together can send a strong message this election season so that politicians of all stripes, we are not picking on anyone, of all stripes see that you have to respect your voters. And the way to do that is by telling them the truth.
Gabe Howard: One of the phrases that you use was post truth, can you explain what that is?
Tim Ward: Sure, this is something that was, I think, Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year in 2016, and it means in this era, whether things are true or not matters less than whether or not they emotionally appealed to voters, that if you tell a lie that is really emotionally convincing, voters won’t punish you for that. They’ll just say, well, it serves our side. Well, you know, politics is a lot about
persuasion, but it also has to be persuasion for the public good. And when people are only using persuasive techniques to lie and deceive people about what’s actually happening, you’re not really serving the public good. And why is it that people will do that? Well, you know, we get strongly invested in our side winning. If you think of anybody who watches a football game when their team gets a penalty flag, what’s the first thing you do? The ref’s blind?
Gabe Howard: Yeah.
Tim Ward: That’s an unfair call. The ref is biased. So, there’s this tendency to want your side to always be right. That’s a natural human tendency. And in a football game, what difference does it make if that’s how you feel? But when it comes to politics, there’s a lot more at stake.
Gabe Howard: I’m cynical, I just want to say that right up front, but don’t all politicians lie? I am forty-three years old and the one truth is that politicians lie.
Tim Ward: Well, let me, first of all, agree with that and then qualify by saying that some do it worse than others. Lots of fact checkers are out there, which can give you a rating. How many lies have been told? And also, in terms of quality, there are different kinds of lies. There are some lies that are overgeneralizing, exaggerating, maybe hiding some things that are truth. And then there are blatant lies, you know, in your face saying one thing one day and another thing the next day. And then there’s gaslighting, which is with the media reports on a lie saying, no, they’re the liars, not me. Trying to get people to doubt their own sense of reality. So, one of the things we encourage people to do is say, OK, suspect all politicians of lies, but especially the ones that you may favor. Fact check for yourself and see what kinds of lies you’re being told. Are you being told more white lies or exaggerations or are you being deliberately and systematically lied to?
Gabe Howard: One of the things that I think that Americans don’t understand is evolution, especially with politicians that have been in the public eye for a long time. And the example that I use is myself, when I was 15 years old, if you asked me, Gabe, what is the best soda in the world? I would have said Mountain Dew. And now at forty-three, if you ask me, you know, Gabe, what is the best soda in the world? I would say Diet Coke. It is certainly possible that somebody putting those two films back to back would be like, OK, were you lying early in your political career or are you lying now to become whatever I’m running for? Now that’s just a change in opinion. Of course, we call that flip flopping, I suppose. But
Tim Ward: Right.
Gabe Howard: I also think about it, like you said, exaggeration. Is there a difference between this is a small house, this is a tiny house, and this house is a thousand square feet? I’d have to imagine that Bill Gates would think that my house is small, whereas anybody that lives in a New York City Manhattan would see my house is huge. The fact remains, it’s still two thousand square feet.
Tim Ward: Right. So, there’s something really important about being able to say it’s two thousand square feet because that’s a fact,
Gabe Howard: Right.
Tim Ward: Big or small, cramped or spacious. Those are value judgments that can only really be interpreted when anyone brings it back down to a fact. So being able to speak about facts is an important thing. If a politician says my plan is going to fix this about the country, it’s legitimate to say, oh, yeah? What are the specific details of your plan? And if they say, well, that’s a secret.
Tim Ward: Or if they give you some ideas about the plan and you say, but that’s the opposite of what you said in the past, have you changed your mind? And the politician says, oh, I never said that. Well, that’s what you have to worry about. It’s not so much whether somebody changed their mind, it’s whether or not they say, I never said that if they actually did. We’ve got to be smarter about listening for lies in when politicians speak. So, there are lots of different ways that you can try to fool people. What really matters is the intent. If a political figure is really trying to explain what they’re doing, they may be exaggerating. They may have some hyperbole. That’s one thing. But if they’re saying things that are false, maybe even about their opponents’ plans, that’s something that should be a red flag for us. When we get those red flags, we should have a higher standard leading to fact check everything else we hear from them.
Gabe Howard: You claim that the current political and media landscape is tilted against truth and facts. Why do you believe that? And how do you think it got that way?
Tim Ward: A big part of it is social media. We used to live in a world where the mainstream media, big networks, big, big newspapers had budgets to rigorously fact check everything. And by and large, they got things right. But the Internet has completely changed the game. It’s pushed us on to a 24-hour news cycle. It’s slashed the budgets of the serious news organizations. So, it’s easier for them to report the news of not just the day, but the news of the minute. Somebody tweets something they just send out boom, news report, so-and-so says X without seriously fact checking X to begin with. So, claims are put out and opinions are put out. And it’s harder to get to those facts. That’s compounded by the fact that on social media, people share stuff and your friends read it and we tend to trust more things that are said by our friends and our family. So, if I see oh, my friend Gabe just sent me this article. Oh, it says alligators are migrating to the Great Lakes. Wow. I’ll send that on to my friends because it comes from someone you trust. You tend to think it’s more true. You tend to send it out easier. And so that’s why you have huge amounts of misinformation in social media.
Gabe Howard: I just can’t help but think, is this just another book that’s anti Trump? Is that really what you’re saying, that Trump is bad? He’s got to go. He’s a liar. And you just wrote a book to prove it?
Tim Ward: Well, there are books out there like that. We have a different stand and our stand is the truth matters and any politician who wants to show the truth matters and sign the pro truth pledge, which is connected to the book and is then ready to follow that standard, we’ll embrace them wholeheartedly. We believe people can change. And if they do change, they should be rewarded for choosing to tell the truth, for deciding to be truthful, especially if they’re public figures. Over a thousand elected officials
have signed the pro truth pledge to date. As to Trump, according to most news sources, he’s repeated over 20,000 falsehoods and misleading statements since he’s been elected. It’s an incredible number and it shows an incredible disregard for the truth. So, I would say anybody who listens to the president should rigorously fact check whatever they hear him say. And specifically, if he says something without evidence, they should ask themselves, why is there no evidence for this? Surely if he had evidence, he’d give it. So, when somebody makes claims and they don’t provide evidence, that should be a red flag. That should be a warning. This claim may not be true.
Gabe Howard: Now, many people would argue that he hasn’t made 20,000 false claims. That the liberal media has lied, that the fact checking websites are biased against him, that it’s all fake news, and that, in fact, he is an incredibly honest person who’s just being attacked by a smear campaign. Now, that really speaks more to a cognitive bias, I suppose. And it also makes me wonder — we as a society believe that all politicians are lying except for our guy. We never
Tim Ward: Yeah,
Gabe Howard: Think that the person that we voted for is lying. It’s all the other ones. It really is a cognitive bias. Right? Can you explain what that is and why people believe it?
Tim Ward: Sure, cognitive biases are mental blind spots that everybody has, you know, our brains have evolved to help us survive well in the African savannah and the social mechanisms that are connected to how our brains evolved and told us to trust and to create lots of shortcuts for who we should trust and why we should trust them. And once people display the characteristics of the kind of person we should trust, it’s easy to continue trusting them. So, someone might simply say, OK, Donald Trump, celebrity, successful business person, I trust him. So that’s a bias called the halo effect. And that means like a halo on an angel. If they’re good in some things, you tend to put a halo on them, on other things. You think of it like, you know, movie stars who endorse a health product or a brand of watch. Why do they do that? Because we think, oh, this movie star, he likes that. It’s got to be good. But in fact, their ability to act well or look handsome has nothing to do with whether or not their watch will work. So
Gabe Howard: Very true, very true.
Tim Ward: So, that’s one example of a bias that really can make people make chronically bad judgments. I will connect it to one other one, which is called the anchoring bias. And this is once we make a strong impression, it becomes very difficult to dislodge us from that impression. You could think of love at first sight. It’s a good parallel to that. Sometimes you meet someone, we fall in love with and we get infatuated and it may take us months to see they’re actually not a very nice person.
Gabe Howard: Or they’re not good for us, it’s there’s
Tim Ward: Exactly.
Gabe Howard: A concept that I love, it’s called new relationship energy. Everything is perfect until that
new relationship energy kind of wears off. Right.
Tim Ward: Right.
Gabe Howard: Whether that takes days or weeks or months, they’re perfect. But then eventually reality sets in.
Tim Ward: Right, right.
Gabe Howard: But during the new relationship energy phase. Oh, it’s addictive.
Tim Ward: Yeah, I think, indeed, for many people, one of the things they found attractive about Trump initially was he wasn’t like a politician. He seemed to say exactly what he was on his mind. He seemed not to be carefully crafting policy positions to please others or the media and a lot of people, I think, like that. So, they had what was the name of that? That new energy.
Gabe Howard: That new relationship energy. He was different. Yeah.
Tim Ward: Exactly. And, you know, in 2016, that’s understandable for some people. Four years later, I think that’s worn off. The new relationship has worn off for a lot of people.
Gabe Howard: We’re going to step away, but we’ll be right back after these messages.
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Gabe Howard: And we’re back with Tim Ward, co-author of Pro Truth: A Practical Plan for Putting Truth Back Into Politics. Now, one of the things that you mentioned earlier was that over a thousand politicians have signed the pro truth pledge. Can you tell our listeners what that is?
Tim Ward: The pledge is something that was created by my coauthor, Gleb Tsipursky, and Dr. Tsipursky is by training a behavioral scientist specializing in cognitive neuroscience, how our brains process truth, truth and lies. So, he created this set of 12 behaviors that, if you follow them, will help you be more truthful and less likely to spread misinformation, especially online, but will also help others, help your friends, your networks better value the expressions of truth, too. The pro truth pledge can make you somebody who can be more certain that you are spreading truthful information online and not inadvertently spreading lies. So, doing things like fact checking, like being willing to question sources from your friends before passing something along, can cut the spread of misinformation and give us a healthier Internet. So that’s the purpose of the pro truth pledge. And I’ve signed it myself and I can attest it’s changed my behavior.
Gabe Howard: I believe you when you say that it has changed your behavior, but we’re not interested in Tim Ward right now. How do you know, or how does Dr. Tsipursky know that this pro truth pledge is going to change people’s behavior at all?
Tim Ward: Right. Excellent. That was Gleb’s question too when he came up with it. Because he’s a scientist, what he did is he reached out and he offered to other scientists the opportunity to conduct research experiments on the pro truth pledge. And not one, but two peer-reviewed studies have been published in scientific journals now attesting to the significant behavior change that those who signed the pro truth pledge have made in their social media. So, what they simply did is they studied people’s social media behavior. Then people took the pledge and then they studied their behavior after that. Now, because social media is out there it was actually easy to do. From the time I signed the pledge, they could track their behavior the four weeks after they signed and the four weeks before they signed and see whether or not they were forwarding on and passing along stuff which was not properly fact checked or true. So those studies are now published. The details about them are in the book. And we invite anybody who wants to not only take a look at the research, but there’s scope for doing more research into it too.
Gabe Howard: I like anything that that’s backed up by fact, and it’s interesting that you said you would look at the four weeks before on social media. One of the benefits of that, of course, is they haven’t signed it yet and they probably don’t know they’re going to sign it. Right. So, when you go
Tim Ward: Right.
Gabe Howard: Back to those four, it’s pure.
Tim Ward: Yeah.
Gabe Howard: I mean, it’s, that’s kind of incredible if you think about it from a scientific research standpoint. So, let’s talk about the subtitle of your book, A Practical Plan for Putting Truth Back Into Politics. Without reading us the book, can you tell our listeners about this plan?
Tim Ward: Sure, there’s three basic steps, the first step is in the book, read it and become smarter at distinguishing truth from lies. Protect yourself. There are practical things you can do, so it’s harder to fool you. The second thing is spread good practices by signing the pro truth pledge and practicing truthful behavior on social media and with emails, with what you share. Beyond that, there’s the social aspect. You can join the pro truth movement. Signing the pledge is the first step, but you can volunteer. You can
post about the pro truth movement. And there’s other ways that you can support the movement. Tell your friends about them. If you’ve got friends who you think would respond to being more truthful, you can give them a copy of the book or simply email them about the pledge. Explain why you signed it. So those two steps, personal, your own relationship and then working as part of the movement. We believe this plan can make an impact in politics. And let me say one of the practical things that I’m working with, the person who’s in charge of our volunteers right now to set up is not just the presidential elections, but there’s all these debates that are going to be going on in town halls with officials up for election. We want people who are pro truth to stand up and ask them questions. Obviously, it’s virtual now so,
Gabe Howard: Right.
Tim Ward: Ask them questions, phone-in and ask them questions. Do you value truth? Have you signed the pro truth pledge? And if they haven’t signed it, to say, will you sign the pro truth pledge? Give them an opportunity to sign it.
Gabe Howard: One of the things that I think about in everything you just said is that that just sounds way too simple. So, I’m going to go to ask basically the same question using radically different words. How do you convince people who believe in lies that align with their emotionally motivated reasoning? They believe it. They’re emotionally invested in it. How do you get them to turn away from that and instead believe in facts which are probably very uncomfortable to them? How do you stem that tide? Because it’s comforting lies versus uncomfortable facts, and most people want to be comfortable. How do you change their mind?
Tim Ward: You are absolutely right, and the sad truth is you can’t change their mind. There are things that you can do with people who hold that view, but people who are simply invested in their side and they don’t care about the facts. These are not the ones that we’re working on reaching with pro truth and the pro truth pledge. We’re working on the ones who’ve had enough. We’re working the ones who want their country to be more grounded in truth and facts in its politics. And let’s say only one in 20 people have come to that realization that truth matters over the last four years. Well, five percent of voters would be enough to swing most states.
Gabe Howard: That’s very, very true. We have this tendency when we say one in 20, one in 20, that’s not very many. That’s five percent. There is nobody in my life that if they received a five percent raise, that their job wouldn’t take everybody out to dinner and think that it was just the most massive number in the history of ever. If they got a five percent rebate on something that they bought or their car or their house just on and on and on, five percent suddenly is this gigantic number until we start saying, well, you know, we get one in 20 to believe the truth. That’s nothing. Why do you think that is? Why? I mean, why.
Tim Ward: Well, now, Dr. Tsipursky may roll his eyes at this because I’m not going to provide scientific research for what I’m going to say, to me, it’s just something that makes common sense. Human nature is deeply rooted in emotions. People we care about, ideas that we care about, they move us as much as hunger and fear. And we can think about numbers, but we don’t feel them deeply. And that means we can easily be misled about numbers. We’ve got very peculiar cognitive biases around numbers which can
lead us to make very bad decisions sometimes. People will hear one percent as something that’s very small and insignificant or as we’ve just talked about, five percent of small and insignificant, when in fact five percent can mean the difference between a flood that washes over a city street and one that doesn’t.
Gabe Howard: Right. It’s interesting what you said about math, because even as you’re talking about math, I hate math. It was my worst class in school. I dreaded them and
Tim Ward: Uh-huh.
Gabe Howard: And I’m not good at it. I don’t like numbers because they’re so rigid. And that is, that is how I am wired. I like the gray. I like to discuss things, whereas math, five plus five is always ten. There’s no
Tim Ward: Yeah,
Gabe Howard: Wiggle room. There’s no discussion.
Tim Ward: Yeah. Yeah.
Gabe Howard: Five plus five is ten. There’s nothing to talk about and I, I really like to talk but I like that human connection
Tim Ward: Yeah,
Gabe Howard: As well, you know. I mean that’s.
Tim Ward: Yeah, I agree with you, the thing that we all have to do is figure out what are the numbers that we need to pay attention to and how can we know that those numbers are true? Right. So, there’s a really crazy number out there, which is the “r” number, which is very important for pandemics. It’s the rate of transmission of infections. And if you’ve got a pandemic going on and one person passes it to one person or fewer than your “r” is less than one and the pandemic will die out. But if your “r” is more than one, the pandemic will spread. So that number is really important to scientists. And one of the problems that we’ve seen in the US is we can’t get that number down below one. That means the infections continue to spread and it’ll never, ever go away if that number is greater than one. So it’s a number of great importance to the scientists who are working on how do we bring this pandemic under control.
Gabe Howard: And yet to build upon that, somebody else will find a completely different number, they will say, well, you know, only 2% die and therefore that’s not really important, or 180,000 people have been infected, but there’s 400 million people. So, are we really giving up our constitutional rights and civil liberties over such a small number? And it’s very interesting that we can use math in this way, because, I mean, one, I would argue that I don’t care if the death rate is one or 180,000, if it’s you or
somebody that you love, that number is really, frankly, irrelevant, because mom or grandma or your child or your best friend are gone. So, it’s interesting. And I think it goes back to the cognitive bias that you were explaining. We have this cognitive bias in our head that as long as it’s nobody that we know, it’s an insignificant number and hey, people die anyway. But that cognitive bias is destroyed immediately if it’s us or somebody that we love. And suddenly we get on board and we see this and people changing their opinions all the time. As a mental health advocate, the number one way that I can get somebody to pay attention to mental illness advocacy is if they or a loved one is diagnosed with it, they end up in the mental health system and they have a traumatic and or bad experience. Then suddenly they want to fix it. Whereas if I talk to that same person two years before when they knew nobody with severe and persistent mental illness, it’s well, it’s fine. I mean, people have health insurance. Well, if you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, it’s they have all of these reasons that the mental health safety net is unimportant to America as a whole. Is it basically like that? Is that a good analogy?
Tim Ward: Certainly, what you’re pointing to is vitally important for us as citizens, but also for our political leaders, and that is finding out how you can take numbers that guide policy and connect them to realities that affect people’s lives. You know, there’s that horrible but brilliant quote that Joseph Stalin gave us years ago. One, death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic. So, from the point of view of where we are today, knowing what numbers mean, how do numbers actually affect us is not only important, but being aware that politicians quite often will skillfully abuse numbers to forward their policy goals. They may even be true numbers. So, at the beginning of the pandemic, some politicians were saying, oh, there’s only 15 cases in the country that encouraging people to ignore it. And then they were saying, oh, sure, there’s deaths, but there are fewer deaths than the flu, encouraging people to ignore it. Those were true numbers, but they were ignoring the fact that pandemics have exponential spread. And if you ignore it when the numbers fall, the number gets very big and almost impossible to control, which is what happened.
Gabe Howard: The question that’s still on my mind here is, do you honestly think that your efforts can make an impact on our political system? I mean, this with all respect, but you wrote a book that said, hey, there’s a lot of lying in politics. Here’s what we can do better. And I think it didn’t we just know this already. And I think that shows apathy on my part. And I have to imagine that there’s probably a lot of apathy in America about what is happening in politics.
Tim Ward: Yeah, it’s out of my hands and it’s out of Gleb’s hands, we can each, both the two of us, but everybody who signed the pro truth pledge everybody who values truth and who is disgusted by the lack of truth in our politics today. Every person has the power to affect their friends, their networks, others around them, and to affect their own political system. Whether or not this is enough to create big change depends on how many people are motivated to make this kind of change. But if there’s one thing that I believe I know about the United States, it’s that when people have had enough, they’re ready to stand up and create change. I think this is the year the people have had enough of lives. And it’s my hope, and Gleb’s hope, that they’ll make truth matter and they’ll take a stand.
Gabe Howard: I like that, thank you so much, Tim, one of the stands that you want people to take is to sign the pro truth pledge. Where can they find that pledge and sign it?
Gabe Howard: And the book’s title is Pro Truth: A Practical Plan for Putting Truth Back Into Politics.
Tim Ward: Yes.
Gabe Howard: Tim, thank you so much for being here and to all of our listeners, thank you for listening. My name is Gabe Howard and I am the author of Mental Illness Is an Asshole: And Other Observations also available on Amazon. Or you can get a signed copy for less money by heading over to gabehoward.com. Wherever you downloaded this podcast, please subscribe. Also, please rate us, give us as many stars as you feel that we deserve and also use your words. Tell people why they should give us a shot. And remember, you can get one week of free, convenient, affordable, private online counseling any time anywhere simply by visiting BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral. We’ll see everybody next week.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to The Psych Central Podcast. Want your audience to be wowed at your next event? Feature an appearance and LIVE RECORDING of the Psych Central Podcast right from your stage! For more details, or to book an event, please email us at [email protected] Previous episodes can be found at PsychCentral.com/Show or on your favorite podcast player. Psych Central is the internet’s oldest and largest independent mental health website run by mental health professionals. Overseen by Dr. John Grohol, Psych Central offers trusted resources and quizzes to help answer your questions about mental health, personality, psychotherapy, and more. Please visit us today at PsychCentral.com. To learn more about our host, Gabe Howard, please visit his website at gabehoward.com. Thank you for listening and please share with your friends, family, and followers.
EXCLUSIVE: Freeform has ordered an election-themed series hosted and executive produced by Kal Penn.
The untitled project, from Michael Davies’ Embassy Row, is described as a smart, irreverent unscripted comedy series that explores issues and topics relevant to Millennial and Gen Z voters.
The series was created by Penn and Romen Borsellino, who also serve as executive producers with Dan Spilo as well as Michael Davie and Julia Cassidy of Embassy Row.
Penn and Borsellino met in 2007 when Penn visited Borsellino’s Roosevelt High School in Des Moines for a campaign event on behalf of Young Americans for Obama. Borsellino introduced Penn and the two developed a friendship. While Penn worked on President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012, he did a Young Americans for Obama meet-and-greet with ISU students, which ISU’s Borsellino helped organize.
In addition to his acting career, Penn has been very involved in political and social initiatives. He was a co-chairman on the Obama campaign and served as an associate director in the White House Office of Public Engagement.
Yang, now a CNN contributor, filed the suit Tuesday alongside seven New York residents who had planned to serve as his delegates to the Democratic National Convention.
“This unprecedented and unwarranted move infringes the rights of Plantiffs and all New York State Democratic Party voters, of which there are estimated to be more than six million, as it fundamentally denies them the right to choose our next candidate for the office of President of the United States,” the lawsuit states.
The filing joins a wave of opposition to the state election commission’s decision. While multiple states have postponed primaries due to the coronavirus pandemic, New York is the first state to cancel outright.
Douglas Kellner, one of the Democratic commissioners on the board, told CNN the decision came after Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign earlier this month, which “basically rendered the primary moot.”
“At a time when the goal is to avoid unnecessary social contact, our conclusion was that there was no purpose in holding a beauty contest primary that would marginally increase the risk to both voters and poll workers,” Kellner said.
The Democratic commissioners voted to remove a number of candidates who had ended their presidential campaigns from the ballot. That resulted in the cancellation of the primary, because former Vice President Joe Biden was uncontested.
Sanders campaign adviser Jeff Weaver said in a statement Monday the move is “a blow to American democracy” and that the state had violated its approved delegate selection plan and should lose its delegates to the national convention if “this is not remedied.”
Yang’s lawsuit echoed that message, stating, “It is reasonable to take precautions to allow for safe voting, but such decisions cannot arbitrarily pertain to some elections and not others.”
“Defendants cannot provide any colorable justification as to why they canceled the presidential primary and not other federal and state primaries. By doing so, Defendants are attempting to create a dangerous precedent.”
CNN’s Kate Sullivan, Annie Grayer and Liz Stark contributed to this report.
Tuesday marked a clear turning point in the Democratic race. Biden is building a powerful coalition of African Americans, suburbanites and rural white voters who previously backed Sanders, while Sanders is failing to produce the electorate-changing turnout of young voters that he’s promised. Democratic figures, from one-time 2020 candidate Andrew Yang to the party’s biggest super PAC, Priorities USA, lined up behind Biden after his Michigan win.
Biden and Sanders are scheduled to debate Sunday night in Arizona. But Sanders is entering a brutal stretch, with primaries next week in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio — all states he lost in 2016. There’s also the reality that coronavirus could crowd Sanders out of national headlines and make it impossible for him to leverage something that separates him from Biden: his ability to turn out massive crowds at rallies. It all makes a comeback even more difficult.
Here are five takeaways from Tuesday’s contests:
Biden begins his pivot
Speaking at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Biden delivered a message of Democratic unity, extending an olive branch to Sanders and his supporters — almost as if the Vermont senator had already exited the race.
“I want to thank Bernie Sanders and his supporters for their tireless energy and their passion,” Biden said. He echoed a common Sanders line on health care, touted their “common goal” and said they would work together to defeat Trump.
It capped a 10-day stretch in which a largely counted out Biden completed one of the most sudden and dramatic reversals of fortune in modern political history. It started with his massive win in South Carolina’s primary, built with his wins in 10 of the 15 Super Tuesday contests and was capped off with a victory over Sanders in Michigan, a crucial general election battleground.
Biden has shown some vulnerabilities — most urgently, his lack of support from young voters. But he is also outperforming Clinton in the primary race with suburban and white working-class voters, giving Democrats a clear potential path to victory in November.
Biden made clear Tuesday night he is eager to turn his attention to a general election match-up with President Donald Trump.
Sanders, meanwhile, countered Biden’s unity message with nothing at all. At home in Burlington, Vermont, he did not speak Tuesday night.
Sanders has a decision to make
Michigan delivered Sanders his best night of the 2016 primary, reviving his campaign as Clinton threatened to run away with the nomination. In 2020, the state might have done the opposite — beating down his campaign and opening the path for Biden to break clear in the delegate race.
Sanders’ loss in Michigan is both a mathematical and psychological wound. For years now, Sanders and his supporters have pointed to the state, and his success there, as evidence that he would have defeated Trump in 2016 — and would if given the chance now. The Vermont senator didn’t run away from the stakes; instead, he ran toward them, canceling a trip to Mississippi in order spend more time in Michigan, which he repeatedly called “the most important state” voting on Tuesday.
But the added time did not add up to a better-than-expected result. Biden, like he did in Missouri and Mississippi, grew his support and delegate lead. And just like after the former vice president won in South Carolina, he also got a boost from some of the party’s biggest names, who argued that the race is over and Sanders should acknowledge as much.
The Sanders campaign has rejected any suggestion that he might consider dropping out any time soon — and certainly not before Sunday night’s debate — but those hopes could soon be replaced by a colder calculus.
“He’ll debate,” a Sanders aide said of his upcoming showdown with Biden in Arizona on Sunday night. The aide wouldn’t go any further.
Dem figures rush to show Sanders the exit
South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, a prominent supporter of Biden’s, minced no words as the results ticked in on Tuesday night.
“I think when the night is over, Joe Biden will be the prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic nomination,” Clyburn said on NPR. “And quite frankly, if the night ends the way it has begun, I think it is time for us to shut this primary down. It is time for us to cancel the rest of these debates.”
Clyburn put in the most direct terms a growing sentiment inside much of the Democratic Party: Sanders’ path to the nomination was closed Tuesday night, and it’s time for him to leave the race.
“I hereby am endorsing Joe Biden,” former 2020 candidate Andrew Yang said on CNN Tuesday night. “Bernie was an inspiration for me, inspired my run. But the math says Joe is our prohibitive nominee. We need to bring the party together.”
And the broader Democratic apparatus began coalescing around Biden, too — led by Priorities USA, the party’s largest super PAC.
“The math is now clear. Joe Biden is going to be the Democratic nominee for President and @prioritiesUSA is going to do everything we can to help him defeat Donald Trump in November,” Guy Cecil, the group’s head, tweet after Michigan was called. “I hope others will join us in the fight.”
Biden is rockin’ the suburbs
The last two weeks have showed that Biden is continuing to surge in the suburbs, where a major realignment that handed Democrats the House in 2018 is now benefitting the former vice president.
The wins began on Super Tuesday in the suburbs around Dallas and Houston in Texas, as well as in northern Virginia outside Washington, DC. In Minnesota, Biden — buoyed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s endorsement — dominated around Minneapolis and St. Paul.
That trend appears to have continued on Tuesday night. Biden, with 87% of the vote counted, had already garnered over 138,000 votes in Oakland County, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. Four years ago, Clinton won Oakland County but with only 92,000 votes, a key reason that she lost the state to Sanders.
The same is true in Macomb County, another Detroit suburb. With 71% of the votes counted, Biden is leading Sanders easily and has already won 58,000 votes. Clinton narrowly won the county in the primary with just under 48,000 votes in 2016.
“Biden’s success in the suburbs — appealing to the base and crossover voters — closely follows what worked in 2018,” said Meredith Kelly, a veteran Democratic operative who was a top staffer at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2018. “If Joe Biden wins the states where we won the House popular vote in the midterms, then it’s game over for Trump.”
Sanders can’t break through with African American voters — again
Since 2016, Sanders has made a concerted effort to broaden his base. In some ways, he has been successful. Latinos powered his signature win in Nevada and became perhaps most reliable constituency.
But in South Carolina, on Super Tuesday and again in this week’s primaries, he lost badly in African-American communities. In Mississippi, it’s possible Sanders will not meet the 15% total required to collect a single at-large delegate.
The numbers out of Mississippi will be jarring to the Sanders campaign, even if they were prepared to lose the state. In an electorate that was nearly two-thirds African American, according to exit polls, Biden outpaced Sanders by a 6-to-1 margin.
Biden’s strength with African American voters was evident in Missouri and Michigan, too, where the former vice president leads comfortably handily in Wayne and Genesee Counties, home to Detroit and Flint respectively.
Sanders had four years to make inroads with African American voters, especially the older ones. He seemed to be on his way. Until the voting began.
Marvel Comics has sent an ominous warning to a New York City politician: Stop campaigning as Captain America!
The campaign of Councilman Ben Kallos, who is running for Manhattan borough president, sent out a “Superhero Alert” on Friday asking for donations in an a-letter that also featured him dressed as the iconic comic book hero.
Making matters worse, Kallos stole from Captain America’s trademark phrase, saying “he can do this all day” in the pitch.
The solicitation makes other superhero references.
“In all seriousness, while Captain America was pretty busy fighting Hydra, sleeper agents, Loki, Ultron, and Thanos, Ben’s been fighting for everyday New Yorkers,” the Kallos campaign pitch said.
“But he doesn’t have the Hulk to help him—he has you! And now, Ben’s hoping to continue to fight the good fight as Manhattan Borough President—so before our next big fundraising goal on November 30th, can you make a contribution so our campaign is ready for whatever comes our way?” the campaign pitch asks.
“And while the real Captain America has super strength, Ben’s power comes from us …And like Captain America, he can do this all day, but we’ve got to make sure he’s got the resources to keep fighting.”
But Marvel Comics was not amused — firing off a cease and desist letter to Kallos.
Captain America doesn’t take side in political races, a top lawyer for the comics’ franchise said.
“I write to request that your campaign refrain from using Marvel’s characters in its advertisements for your quest for the Borough Presidency or otherwise,” Marvel Comic’s deputy chief counsel Eli Bard’s said in a letter to Kallos, which the councilman posted on his Twitter. “While Marvel appreciates your obvious affection for our properties and welcome your support as a fan, we ask that our characters not be used for political purposes or to support political campaigns.”
Kallos was so amused by the letter that he shared it on on twitter.
“Got this charming letter from @Marvel and got a kick out of it, thought you might, too!,” he said.
Kallos, who represents Manhattan’s East Side, has long been a superhero fan, hosting viewings of movies such as “Avengers: End Game.”
In Kentucky, Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear was poised to defeat Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, holding onto a 0.4-percentage-point lead with all precincts reporting even as Bevin said he would not concede. Trump had tried to bolster Bevin, holding a rally with him Monday night in Kentucky and telling the state’s GOP voters that the race’s outcome would be seen as a reflection on him.
If Beshear hangs on, he has said he would ease Medicaid access, overhaul the state’s education leadership and restore the voting rights of former felons who have done their time.
In Virginia, Democrats won majorities in both the House and Senate, giving the party full control of the state’s government and solidifying what had once been a swing state as a stronghold for the party. Their wins open the door for new gun control laws, an increased minimum wage and other progressive measures that Republicans had previously blocked.
And in Mississippi, Republicans had held onto the governor’s office, beating back a veteran Democrat’s bid for another potential election-night stunner. The GOP’s win there means the state is likely to continue pursuing tax cuts and opposing an expansion of Medicaid.
Here are three takeaways from Tuesday’s elections:
Kentucky governor’s race spells trouble for Republicans
It’s true that Bevin was a troubled candidate. He worked to roll back Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion. His brash style was on display when he accused protesting teachers of being “selfish” and having a “thug mentality” when they objected to his efforts to slash their pensions. Polls showed he was among the nation’s least popular governors.
But make no mistake: National Republicans were all-in on Bevin.
Trump spent Monday night rallying with Bevin in Kentucky. Vice President Mike Pence last week went on a bus tour with the first-term governor. And the Republican Governors Association spent millions of dollars attempting to bolster him on the airwaves.
Republicans sought to explain away Tuesday’s result — trailing in the governor’s race in a state Trump won by 30 percentage points — by pointing to their victories in five down-ballot statewide races and throwing Bevin under the bus.
“The President just about dragged Gov. Matt Bevin across the finish line, helping him run stronger than expected in what turned into a very close race at the end,” Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement.
But the causes for criticism of Bevin — his combative personality, penchant for controversy and pursuit of controversial policies — could also apply to Trump.
And Trump himself, just a night earlier, had said the outcome of Bevin’s reelection bid would be a reflection on him.
“If you lose, they’re going to say Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world. This was the greatest. You can’t let that happen to me,” he told Bevin at their rally.
That the GOP trails in the governor’s race in a state Trump won by 30 percentage points is a bad sign for the party across the board. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the most powerful Kentuckian in politics and a veteran of tough elections, is on the ballot next year. And while Tuesday’s results don’t necessarily forecast trouble for McConnell, they do likely mean Amy McGrath, a leading Democratic challenger, will likely see a fundraising boon.
If Beshear is ultimately certified the winner, he has said he would pursue an agenda of making Medicaid more accessible — restoring the policies of his father, popular former Gov. Steve Beshear, who expanded the program before leaving office four years ago. He has also said he would replace Bevin’s state board of education and allowing 140,000 former felons who have served their time to vote.
A Democratic trifecta in Virginia
Democrats cemented a new reality in Virginia on Tuesday: For decades a Republican stronghold, and then a swing state, the commonwealth is now controlled by Democrats.
The party won majorities in Virginia’s House and Senate, gaining full control of the state government for the first time in two decades.
The victories put Gov. Ralph Northam and Democrats in the legislature in position to pursue a progressive agenda — including gun control measures, which a majority of Republicans had blocked, and a higher minimum wage.
With the “trifecta” of the House, Senate and governor’s office, Democrats will also control the redistricting process after the 2020 Census, drawing the new maps for congressional and state legislative districts.
That was a key focus for the party in the wake of state-level losses during former President Barack Obama’s administration. Each trifecta represents a foothold that can be used to bolster the party’s ranks in Congress and to cement their status as the majority party in statehouses for another decade.
Tuesday’s results were a continuation of the years-long collapse of the GOP in what until recently had been a swing state. Virginia voted for George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election and elected Republican Bob McDonnell governor in 2009, but has backed Democratic presidential and gubernatorial candidates since those elections.
The victories completed a Democratic comeback in the state legislature that began in 2017, when Democrats made major gains in the legislature, largely through suburban districts, and Northam won handily in an early sign of backlash over Trump’s presidency.
That election left the GOP with a 51-49 House majority and a 21-19 advantage in the Senate, and Democrats immediately began targeting legislative seats in hopes of winning control this year.
But that comeback was threatened this year when Northam was accused of appearing in a yearbook photo dressed in blackface, and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax was accused of sexually assaulting two women.
GOP wins in Mississippi
The best news of the night for Republicans came in Mississippi, where they won the race to replace outgoing Gov. Phil Bryant.
The governor’s race in such a solidly red state would ordinarily be no cause for suspense.
But Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves faced a serious challenge from Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood, a moderate candidate who had already won statewide four times.
The race was in part a referendum on expanding Medicaid: Reeves, an anti-spending conservative, said he would continue the state’s rejection of an expansion under Obamacare, while Hood said he would expand Medicaid to cover an additional 100,000 people.
Reeves was also bolstered by campaign appearance from Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and Pence.
Trump congratulated Reeves Tuesday night.
“Our big Rally on Friday night moved the numbers from a tie to a big WIN. Great reaction under pressure Tate,” Trump tweeted.