*Despite rising diversity in the ranks of candidates, women and people of color for public office are still underrepresented, partially on account of fundraising barriers.
*A recent study found that a $6-to-$1 match for each donation of $200 or less would have benefit congressional candidates, especially women and those of color who generally rely more on small donors.
In America, the land of You Can Be Anything You Want to Be, a line of rap sold exclusively to schoolchildren and idealists these days, it’s been less true now than at any other time in our collective political history. According to the Federal Elections Commission campaign data, as recently as 2018, if what you wanted was to be a member of Congress it could cost you as much, or more, than $18 million.
The $18 million campaign, launched by the very white David Trone (D), of Maryland’s 6th District, spent this much to win his seat in 2018. Which is easy to do if you own a $3 billion wine business and are willing to spend your own money to do so.
But if you don’t want to run the priciest campaign to win what’s left? Outside of losing?
Serrano spent $2 per person to get their vote. By the same math Trone spent $112.40 per voter for his votes.
A price tag of a cool $240,000 spent by the very Puerto Rican Democratic incumbent Jose Serrano in the same year. On the basis of the number of people in New York’s 15th district Serrano spent $2 per person to get their vote. By the same math Trone spent $112.40 per voter for his votes.
To put a finer point on it, if you don’t have the dimes, don’t waste your time since, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, the projected costs of running for congress this year will total $5,674,950,826. Competing for even a fraction of this, puts congressional candidates of color and women at a disadvantage for reasons that are both complicated and compelling.
In a 2006 paper on Race, Gender, and Descriptive Representation (Hardy-Fanta et al) it lays out that donors calibrate the amount of money they give on the basis of how much they think the candidate can fundraise. If the perception is that the candidate can’t raise much on their own, donors are not likely to pile on. If donors are not likely to pile on, then candidates are less likely to raise much.
And since you can only spend what you have, and you only have what donors are giving you, unless you’re independently wealthy like the aforementioned Trone, you’re done against better-funded candidates. The better-funded candidates, typically white men, are nowhere close to facing the systematic disadvantages faced by non-white candidates.
“How do you create equity in funding African American and
Latino women who have less access to fundraising money in the first place,” asked former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner who authored a report on fundraising challenges in an interview for the Center for American Progress. “If your standard for giving money is that the person has to hit a certain threshold?”
The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law has an idea.
Specifically, a special kind of small donor financing where each small donation a qualifying candidate gets is matched with government funds.
“The campaign finance portion of democracy,” said Chisun Lee, Deputy Director in the Brennan Center’s Election Reform Program, “can be used to keep our government as diverse as the people it’s governing.”
How does Lee know? Because if you take the voluntary small donor match program in the For the People Act (HR 1), passed by the House last year, and apply it to the House races in the last four general elections, you’d find that the $6-to-$1 match for each donation of $200 or less would have benefited all candidates running for Congress. But, especially, candidates of color and women who generally rely more on small donors.
“We just got it enacted in New York State,” said Lee. “And it’s allowed a wider variety of people to participate in this extremely important part of the political process.”
But while 2018 might be considered a success based on prior years, The Center for Responsive Politics puts a fire under the need for more equity and not less. This, in light of their findings that even if women keep winning congressional races like they did in 2018, it would still take more than three decades for their numbers in Congress to reflect their 51 percent share of the general population.
Three decades. Thirty years.
Though Lee states that the program is nonpartisan and she gives a nod to republican supporters of these reforms, the For the People Act (HR 1) has been on Mitch McConnell’s desk since January 2019.
“Though we’ve seen lots of positive political effects in New York,” Lee concludes in an understatement to end all understatements. “Much hinges on the upcoming election outcome.”
There’s a great scene in one of the earlier versions of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It opens with people having what very much seems like a staff meeting. In a field.
Turns out it is a staff meeting and more than that it is a staff meeting on another planet. Apparently the Do’ers and the Thinkers had figured out that Earth was about to be “destroyed” and they needed to colonize another planet. So they built a rocket ship and shipped off the interstitial group: middle managers.
As middle managers would, they had meetings and waited for everyone else to “show up.”
The civil war they’re imagining is largely already here. The only thing that’s left? The shooting.
But where laughter presently goes to die? The American body politic where the only laughter to be had these days is the kind that begs being called laughter at all. A bitter and reflexive gotcha guffaw to match the mean times, in which headlines redound with “Slams,” “Rips,” and “Blasted” as things people routinely do to each other. For? Well just about anything.
And while this noise is loudest at the source, it gets strangest on the peripheries where it sounds nothing like laughter.
Like in Michigan: Alex Fox and a group he calls the Wolverine Watchmen had detailed plans to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Unlike the aforementioned middle managers, these do’ers and thinkers had plans that involved guns, bombs, tasers and then things got a little fuzzy. Presumably a trial would follow, though some plans had her being shot when she answered the door at her home.
They also targeted police and other government officials, and all of it, the whole grand dance was done in order to start a civil war that would lead to a “societal collapse.”
Which is not something we haven’t heard before. Charles Manson turned retribution for a drug burn into a shaggy dog story of multi-night massacres, lunacy and a race war he was hoping to kick off. But Manson wasn’t appearing months earlier at the Michigan state capitol with guns and friends and family with guns. These 2020 militia types were there to rip the state mandate to wear some fabric across your nose and mouth to prevent you and your friends and family from catching COVID-19.
That is what they are posting up for.
But as professionals tend to say about suicide, there’s never any one reason it happens. Besides we’ve heard them all at this point. Marginalization, perception of threats in a changing America, the steady drumbeat of bile coming out of D.C., diminished future prospects. All valid.
But, so what?
The civil war they’re imagining is largely already here. The only thing that’s left? The shooting.
“I think you can file this all under ‘what men need,'” says Rebecca, who wants her last name withheld as she’s hit a rough patch during this year of COVID and currently makes her home in a homeless encampment in San Jose. Courtesy of a bad boyfriend, bad luck and a death in the family.
“You know how many 20-year-olds live down here?” she asks in a phone call that keeps cutting out. “Lots. And where do you think they’re going to be in 10 years?” Rebecca has been to college and lived overseas for many years. She’s an attractive white woman in her 30s and it’s still not paying off. And yet? She’s not planning to kidnap anyone.
But no society with aimless, disaffected, and eventually angry men in their 20s (or even 30s or 40s), is looking at good times. If they were all gathered on a proverbial street corner, we’d in all likelihood cross the street. In fact the Wolverine Watchmen were described by their neighbors as “mean” and preliminary photos from their compound complete with broken trucks and garbage on the lawn is about as far away from supremacy as any of us might imagine.
There is, however, a curious difference between talkers and do’ers as the droll Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy makes clear. While what happened in Michigan was talkers talking about doing, do we have to wait until an Oklahoma City bombing to be able to say that if your action items are culled from a list of grievances that explain away your failures and shortcomings, maybe it’s really just about your failures and shortcomings?
Because while anger tends to be intellectual, rage is emotional and when they meet in the middle, great works of art are not created, they’re destroyed. This will not get you any bit closer to things being any kind of OK.
“You unbelievable retard…” is how Gavin McInnes blasted me after we published a piece on him and the Proud Boys. I’ve been called worse but can’t we do better? Do we want to? And what will it take to happen? A bigger slice of the pie? A nap? A kind word?
Unknown. But maybe when the do’ers and thinkers show up we can figure it out.
The coronavirus and the subsequent shutdowns — and in some cases re-openings and re-shutdowns — have had the totally expected outcome of being tough on business. Very specifically small businesses. Even more specifically than that, small businesses owned and operated by people of color.
But the best/worst part? We’re still not out of the woods when it comes to the possibility of the uninterrupted flow of business in the future so how to handle not getting laughed out of the joint when it comes to asking a bank for a bridge loan, is a must.
So how must you best position you and your business to make it through the rocky shoals of the shutdown while convincing a bank that it’s not just a case of good money following bad? We asked and discovered precisely how.
“It’s really important to be sure that your bank has lots of types of financial instruments and understands the type of business you’re building, because not all banks take every type of risk,” said Candice Matthews Brackeen, a General Partner and founder of the venture capital firm Lightship Capital. The Cincinnati, Ohio firm has created a $50 million fund to invest in underrepresented founders in the Midwest, from racial minorities to the LGBTQ and disabled communities.
“There are lots of Wall Street banks that don’t fund venture. So you’ve got to find something that is going to be able to have a working line of credit to buy something in, say, manufacturing. Not all banks are one-size fits all, you’ve got to figure out what works for your type of business.”
Also since small business loans are a solid way to let you expand your business, provide capital for expanding your business or consolidating debt in order to expand — counterintuitive during COVID we know but stick with us — you should know after you get to the bank, what they’re looking for. Because this has not changed much at all: capacity, capital, character, collateral, and conditions.
In a nutshell: can the loan be repaid (capacity), how much cash do you have on hand to pay it off (capital), does your history and references suggest you will repay (character), if it can’t be repaid do you have other available assets (collateral) and, finally, what the climate is like for business when you’re asking (conditions). On the one hand in the middle of a pandemic conditions might seem bad. On the other hand? It’s bad for everyone.
So once level set for the prevailing conditions and understanding that business will still go on, this is most assuredly what will help you over the banking hump.
“There are a lot of banks making lots of money,” Brackeen said. “And sharing profits with what communities they decide they will go to. There is kind of a big push…” Which is precisely why with your ducks in a row you should be ready to go if you just need a little help making it from here to there. COVID or not, businesses will not die.
- Futurist urban designer Cindy Frewen says future cities are likely to be more livable, and women-friendly.
- In the future, buildings will have physical and virtual layers, which will make them disposable, portable, recyclable and temporary.
London had experienced deadly outbreaks of cholera, typhoid and influenza in the 1830s. But it took a stinking River Thames, its stench reaching the British Parliament, for the city to finally build a modern sewer system in the 1850s. Architect and urban designer Cindy Frewen is hoping the COVID-19 pandemic will accelerate some of the changes she’s been forecasting for our cities and transform how we live in the future.
After working as an architect for more than two decades, she realized designing cities in terms of space was not enough. The key, she concluded, was to think about them in terms of time. That was in the late 1980s. Now, 30 years later, Frewen is part of a growing wave of female futurists who are reimagining what the world will look like in a decade, in a century . . . and even in 500 years, finding ways to prepare for the changes before they happen.
“The future . . . is going to be completely different,” Frewen tells OZY. “We live in industrial cities and we are living digital lives . . . the two don’t match.”
Past Imperfect, Future Proof
One of the most fascinating things about futurologists (believe me, I have spoken to many lately) is that they love talking about the past. They learn from it and find inspiration in it, picking out what worked from what didn’t while trying to figure out how new machines fit into the equation.
Imagining new technologies is, at least relatively, easy. Scientists can work on a blank canvas. They can dream and visualize without many boundaries. Urban design futurism is a lot more challenging because the canvas is packed with decades of often conflicting construction styles and visions of what a city should look like (more or less green spaces, for example). Building a new kind of city involves figuring out if and how to remove what was there before, and where to put the people.
So, what will our future cities look like? As digital technologies allow us to be in different places without having to physically move, older designs will once again make sense. “The benefit of the cities that are 100 years or older is that they were designed before we got cars and are now actually better for our modern lifestyles because everything is walkable,” Frewen says.
But if you’re imagining old cities like London or Vienna with some smart augmented reality as touch-up, think again. The real revolution will come in the way buildings — and the way we think of them — will radically change. They will have physical and virtual layers, with both modern construction materials and artificial intelligence as central building blocks. This will allow buildings to interact with us while making them disposable, portable, recyclable and temporary.
“We have to imagine the lives that we want, not just what we are given. People think that cities are untouchable, but they are really not.”
Cindy Frewen, architect, urban designer and futurist
“The buildings will become smarter, helping us connect — like phones but on a bigger scale,” the futurist explains. “They will know you are in the room, your height and weight, and whether you are hot or cold. They will respond to us.”
There’s another reason why our cities will look radically different in the future: The people designing them will no longer be white men of a “certain age.”
“I don’t think it’s an accident that walkability and liveability have risen so much since women have been an active part of the conversation on urban planning,” Frewen says.
A more livable and sustainable city of the future, she says, is likely to include more parks, green spaces and areas for community living for older women who are likely to continue to outnumber older men.
“We have to imagine the lives that we want, not just what we are given. People think that cities are untouchable, but they are really not. They have to be imagined and it’s rough because we build so much.”
Shara Evans, a technology futurologist, agrees that cities need to be reimagined, but she believes that cities of the future might not even be on planet Earth.
“If you start to think about humanity being a multiplanetary civilization, then you can start to take the pressure off good old mama Earth and start to spread, growing humanity among other stars,” she tells OZY. “To me, that is fundamental to the survival of humanity in the long term.”
A Tale of Two Cities
But back on Earth, there’s another side to this story. Technology, Frewen says, will inevitably grow. But she worries about how tech only seems to be exacerbating the gap between the haves and the have-nots. And nowhere is this more visible than in urban design. While tech drives richer cities, millions of people continue to live in informal settlements lacking even basic sanitation.
“Futurists are thinking about what the world will look like for 5% of the people. What about the other 95%, what about Afghanistan and Syria?” Frewen asks. “These people are still dealing with issues such as clean water and food. These are things we will really need to fix soon because there isn’t anywhere we can hide anymore.”
Correct Answers: The number of spears, the mole on the person’s nose, feathers and the imprint on the helmet.
Winners: Cindy A., GoofyNY, Laurie C., Dennis Y., Randy C., Heide B., Jacqueline T., Carol B., Roger P., Jim T., Martin P., Laura D., James C., Sarah L., Fran H., Catherine L., Ernest H., Ailene R., Margaret H., George H., Rick R., Margaret Z., Donnamarie M., Shari O., Jean W., Carl B., John D., Honorato C.P., Joel J., Claudia M.F., Lakshmi V., Dottie R., Joseph S., Patrick B. and Nancy C. — congratulations!!!
Nelson Mandela knew the power sports have to bring change and used it to build the foundations of South Africa’s post-apartheid Rainbow Nation. “Sport can create hope where once there was only despair,” the Nobel laureate once said.
Today, just a glance at the biggest stars of the most popular sports is enough to see that change is coming faster than ever. Racism and machismo have long been a bitter reality in top-tier sports.
But a new generation of athletes — from rodeo athletes to refugees and hoopsters to hitters — is fundamentally changing the way our favorite sports look. In today’s Daily Dose, we share some of the most stunning changes transforming the world of sports.
Immigrants Are Baseball’s Backbone
America’s game has for decades relied on imported talent to field the best teams. Nearly 30% of Major League Baseball players are born overseas. At the small-town level, their presence is even more critical. Of the eight teams in a 2019 Minor League Baseball grouping based in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Michigan, immigrants made up 34% of the playing roster. It’s a telling figure when you consider those states have an average per-capita immigrant population of just 5%. That’s not all. Baseball plays a major role in building bridges between rural communities that are overwhelmingly white and people from other cultures.
Native American Millennials at the Rodeo
The rodeo world is the sole preserve of the white, male rancher, right? Not so fast, cowboy. Increasingly, young Native American bull and bronc riders are making it to the big time. In 2018, Keyshawn Whitehorse, a member of the Navajo Nation, won the elite Professional Bull Riders “Rookie of the Year” title, beating out rivals from the U.S. and four other countries. The Utah native currently sits in the top 10 rankings for the Professional Bull Riders’ 2021 season and is joined in the PBR rankings by the likes of Cody Jesus (also Navajo) and Colten Jesse (Potawatomi). But it’s not only the boys making waves. Watch out for teenager Najiah Knight of the Paiute and Klamath tribes, who has been taking the junior bull riding world by storm.
Inequality in the Classroom
That college athletes can now get paid for the first time puts the ball firmly in their court. But what about schools that now find themselves forced to pony up for new incentives in order to attract student athletes? “The risk,” writes The Athletic, “is that institutions with small endowments and money-losing athletics programs may divert resources from financial aid and student services” to sports in order to keep attracting students. That means that colleges may find themselves spending most of their cash on attracting top sports talent and less on scholarships, clubs and societies that traditionally benefit first-generation college-goers and those from poor backgrounds the most.
Immigrants Reshaping Gaelic Games
In Ireland, hurling and Gaelic football are king. But rural regions have been suffering from falling population numbers. As young people headed to Dublin and Belfast in search of better-paying jobs, following the 2008 economic crisis, the number of people playing these sports was at risk of falling. In recent years, a new cohort of immigrants and refugees have not only helped keep these team sports alive, but they are taking center stage on the national level. Take Wexford’s Lee Chin, the midfield powerhouse and former hurling captain whose father is from Malaysia. Chin is regarded as one of the best hurlers in Ireland today. Other foreign-born athletes, such as Pakistan-born Shairoze Akram and Congo-born Israel Ilunga, have helped bring success to communities far from Ireland’s larger cities.
Rugby Is Big in Japan
New Zealanders take their rugby very seriously. So why have many of their most decorated players been leaving in droves for Japan, hardly a rugby powerhouse itself? From ex-All Black captain and legend Kieran Read to world record points scorer Dan Carter, New Zealand’s top talent has found its way north, especially as they’ve neared retirement. What’s the attraction? Unsurprisingly, it’s cold, hard cash. A number of Japanese rugby clubs are financially backed by major corporations and are thus able to pay higher salaries for top rugby talent. What’s more, it’s not only decorated international players who are heading to Japan, but young and hungry Kiwi players too. Experts say the consequences for the local game in New Zealand could be very bad indeed.
Women’s Cricket Imperiled in Afghanistan
Afghanistan’s cricket fairy tale is one of the only pieces of good news to come from the country in decades. In 2015, its men’s team made the Cricket World Cup, held in Australia, for the first time. By May 2020, the men’s national team had reached a ranking of ninth in the world and cricket had become Afghanistan’s national sport. But the events of the last several weeks have upended the women’s cricket game in particular. Many of the sport’s administrative leaders have fled the country fearing reprisals from the Taliban. Other team members are in hiding in part because of threats the Taliban have made against female cricket players over a period of years. With the Women’s Cricket World Cup set to take place next spring, the chances that many Afghan women will be practicing on their local fields before then look very poor indeed.
THE BREAKTHROUGH FACES
He’s the face of the NBA . . . and of basketball’s transformation. In July, the 26-year-old forward led the Milwaukee Bucks to their first championship in a half-century, emerging as the NBA Finals MVP. But the “Greek Freak,” as he is known, is more than a star hoopster. Within the NBA, he’s showcasing the rise of a new generation of foreign-born players who are rising to the very top. Washington Wizards’ Rui Hachimura — born to a Japanese mother and a Beninese father — and Dallas Mavericks’ Slovenian point guard/shooter Luka Dončić are already following in his footsteps. Yet Antetokounmpo might have made the biggest impact back home in Greece, where the stunning rise of this son of Nigerian parents is giving young athletes of color confidence in a nation with a history of racism in sports.
They call him “Sho Time.” And he puts on a show like few ever have. The Japanese baseball superstar has drawn comparisons with Babe Ruth after he became the first ever player to be selected as both a pitcher and hitter in the All-Star Game in July. Some experts even believe he’s better than Ruth. And the poster boy of modern baseball has done it while battling racism — such as suggestions that his English isn’t good enough to make him attractive to American audiences. In fact, the once-in-a-century phenomenon is helping expand the sport’s global reach, paving a path that others like Roki Sasaki — a Japanese teenager who threw a 101-mph ball while in high school — will look to follow.
Sport is in this soccer player’s genes. But this child of college athletes, whose father played rugby and mother played basketball, has broken barriers like no one has. The Canadian national soccer player is the first openly transgender athlete to win an Olympic gold medal after Canada triumphed over Sweden in the women’s football final in Tokyo in August. But they know the battle has just started, with persistent — and in some cases, growing — discrimination against trans athletes. “The fight isn’t close to over . . . and I’ll celebrate when we’re all here,” Quinn says.
Foreign NBA Pipelines
College basketball has long served as the primary funnel through which generations of elite athletes have made it to the NBA. Now overseas sources of talent are opening up like never before. This year, 13 players from the National Basketball League in Australia and New Zealand — including LaMelo Ball, R.J. Hampton and Josh Giddey — were picked for the summer league rosters. Spain’s Liga ACB was home to names such as Dončić and Argentine Luis Scola — who retired last week — before they moved to the NBA. And the newly formed Basketball Africa League, which counts former President Barack Obama as a strategic partner, appears primed to train a new generation of African-origin superstars who could rule the NBA in years to come.
Women in Charge
In 2008, Becky Hammon was accused by the U.S. national women’s basketball coach of betraying America after she played for Russia at the Beijing Olympics. In reality, the U.S. national team hadn’t expressed interest in her — and Russia did. Today, she’s broken through generations of gender barriers, becoming the first woman to act as head coach for an NBA team, the San Antonio Spurs, in December. As the first full-time female assistant coach in the NBA, she’s part of a wave of women who are taking charge of top-flight men’s sports clubs. Last November, Faiza Haider became the first woman to become head coach of an Egyptian men’s soccer team. And Nita Ambani, philanthropist, businesswoman and wife of Indian multibillionaire Mukesh Ambani, has turned a once-struggling team — the Mumbai Indians — into Indian cricket’s most successful franchise.
Yes to ‘24’ in Brazil?
It’s a number pejoratively associated with homosexuality in Brazilian culture. That, in turn, has meant that in a country where machismo is the norm, soccer clubs and players have shunned jerseys with the number 24. But over the past two years, a slow but definite movement has taken root within the sport, aiming to fight homophobia by embracing the number. It took off after Kobe Bryant — who wore a number 24 shirt — died in 2020, with Brazilian soccer club Bahia and the sports magazine Corner driving the campaign. Since then, a number of rising Brazilian soccer players such as Víctor Cantillo of Cornithians, Flávio Medeiros of Bahia and Gabriel Barbosa of Flamengo have worn number 24 shirts. And in July this year, a judge asked the country’s governing body for soccer why no member of Brazil’s Copa América team had that number.
Sure, politics can seem like little more than a popularity contest where participants frequently promise more than they can deliver. But in a world beset by life-or-death challenges ranging from COVID-19 and climate change to sectarian violence and hunger, some leaders are trying something different.
In today’s Daily Dose, we’re looking at the innovative steps political leaders around the world are taking to try to fundamentally reset the destinies of their nations — from a Caribbean prime minister who’s building a republic out of a former colony to a Kosovar mayor bridging ethnic tensions with language and culture.
You might not agree with everything they’re trying. And it’s likely not all of these initiatives will succeed. But the world needs bold, new ideas, and these officials are leading the way.
Seeds of Change
The island nation of Singapore brings in more than 90% of its food from abroad, and that’s not normally a problem. But the pandemic’s disruption of global supply chains forced the wealthy city-state to recognize the food insecurity it could face in future crises. Now, seeds of change are sprouting under an initiative led by the country’s National Parks Board and former Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee. Called Gardening With Edibles, the program involves sending out seeds to residents so they can grow fruits and vegetables on their tiny balconies. It’s part of the country’s wider “30 by 30” initiative: to meet 30% of its nutritional needs domestically by 2030. As of March, the initiative had sent out nearly half a million seed packets.
To make sure legions of new amateur gardeners aren’t left guessing, Singapore’s National Parks Board has released instructional videos on how to sow and harvest the produce. Those who sign up don’t get to choose their seeds, but the plants were selected to reflect the ingredients in traditional Singaporean dishes, like stir-fried cai xin and kangkong belacan. Part of the rollout also means doubling the number of community gardens by 2030, since growing vegetables on a windowsill or balcony can get cramped, and space on the island is at a premium. Additionally, Lee’s pushing an initiative aimed at getting developers of residential apartments to increase green spaces, like rooftop gardens and wall landscaping — providing the additional benefit of cooling ambient temperatures.
While still in its infancy as an independent nation, Bangladesh suffered a major famine in 1974, when an estimated 1.5 million people died. Today, the country that former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once derisively dismissed as a “basket case” has emerged as a success story against food shortages. Between 2000 and 2015, it cut chronic hunger by half, though a sixth of the country’s population remains food insecure. Now, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is focusing on the next big threat to food supplies: antimicrobial resistance, (AMR), in which microbes, by evolving over time, no longer respond to medicine. She’s warning the world of the risk of future pandemics because of this phenomenon and the threat it poses to food security. Will richer nations listen before it’s too late?
Fishing for Nutrition
It’s not just about having enough food; it’s also about having the right nutrition. Hasina has been encouraging Bangladesh’s youth to take to fish farming. Not only is it an opportunity for self-employment, she has said, but it’s a way of locally shoring up her nation’s food supply. Her government is reportedly focusing on increasing fish production while providing food for farmers and fisherfolk to make sure they don’t fall into financial hardship, as well as organizing collateral-free loans for those looking to set up a fishing enterprise.
POLICY AND ECONOMY
The Crypto King
Creative? Yes. Effective? Only time will tell. El Salvador has made headlines after burgeoning authoritarian and down-with-the-kids President Nayib Bukele made Bitcoin legal tender in the Central American country. It’s been permitted since early September. But that doesn’t mean all businesses are obligated to accept it as payment. Bukele’s vision is a libertarian dream: He has argued that he wants citizens to have access to a market-governed currency instead of being reliant on the U.S. dollar, which is also legal tender. And at least in theory, it should be easier and safer to access money virtually.
But Bukele’s bold move hasn’t had the smoothest launch. Bitcoin initially took a beating in the markets soon after formally becoming legal tender on Sept. 7, before recovering. There’s also been significant pushback from Salvadorans, many of whom are concerned about Bitcoin’s volatility — it’s a fickle friend — and the potential for it to be used in money laundering. The state launched an official digital wallet, called Chivo, with $30 worth of bitcoin preloaded, but since its introduction, it’s been beset by glitches. Some users didn’t get the $30 and couldn’t use ATMs or even access their wallet. And now the president is urging Salvadorans to “buy the dips,” by joining him in currency speculation. Sink or swim, the outcome of this experiment could mean big changes for a country in which 70% of the population doesn’t have access to banking services.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle aren’t the only ones severing ties with the British monarchy. Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley, elected in 2018, has announced her intention to remove the queen as the island nation’s head of state to make the country a republic by Nov. 30. Speaking to Vogue, Mottley described the decision as “accepting responsibility for who we are,” rather than any ill will toward the royal family. The next few months will see the crystallization of a new constitution, as current Governor-General Dame Sandra Mason is poised to become Barbados’ first local head of state as president.
Marriage Equality by Popular Vote
But Mottley’s a change-maker in more ways than one: She also has marriage equality in her sights. She’s spoken about how, as “A country that was forged in its modern incarnation in the experiment of racism and discrimination,” Barbados can’t now willingly discriminate against its own citizens. Her plan includes first making same-sex civil unions legal, then holding a referendum on same-sex marriage. LGBTQ groups and activists aren’t that confident, however, saying that building equality would take a lot more than civil unions and warning that it may be too early for a marriage referendum.
INTEGRATION AND EQUALITY
Breaking the Language Barrier
As an ethnic Albanian, Qëndron Kastrati, the mayor of Kamenica, Kosovo, doesn’t speak much Serbian. But along with a growing number of others in his area, he’s learning — thanks to language exchange classes his municipality set up to bridge ethnic and cultural tensions. The vast majority of Kosovars are Albanian, following violent conflict in the late 1990s that prompted many Serbs to leave. Those who remain live largely separate from Albanians, and language and culture barriers perpetuate historic rifts. The course includes visits to sites of religious and cultural importance for both sides. More than 100 people have joined the program, and Kastrati hopes to expand its reach, while other towns are borrowing his idea.
Taking on Teachers
But Kastrati’s ideas are also controversial. The first-time mayor has set out to reform education in his city, where some schools only had one pupil, and ordered 19 schools shut in 2019. Teachers and parents clapped back, pointedly attending the closed schools. Kastrati has nonetheless stood his ground. And last year, then-Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti — who had earlier criticized the Kamenica mayor — praised him for pushing for education reforms even as he urged him to seek a compromise with his critics.
Freedom Zone Activist
It takes guts to be an openly gay, atheist, feminist and pro-European politician in an increasingly conservative Poland ruled by the right-wing Law and Justice party. Yet it’s a stand that Robert Biedroń has been taking for years. A member of the European Parliament and a candidate in his nation’s 2020 presidential election, Biedroń advocated for a project to fight back against Poland’s proliferating “LGBTQ-free zones,” where local authorities have, since 2019, vowed to prevent pro-LGBTQ policies. Biedroń tabled a resolution before the European Parliament arguing that the bloc instead become an “LGBTQ freedom” zone. The resolution passed, though some regions have opted to lose their EU funding rather than comply.
In March, Biedroń appeared on one of Poland’s biggest current affairs TV shows with dyed tomato-red hair. “This is my manifesto” he said, explaining that it’s his sign of support for young people dealing with a lack of access to sex education. Poland’s social history is interwoven with a lack of sex education, leading to perpetuated stereotypes, homophobia, inequality for women and minorities — and increasingly, physical violence. Biedroń said that from that day and for the foreseeable future, he will have red hair in solidarity with “this great, goddamn injustice” that mostly affects children.
Chaotic. Uncertain. Unsteady. These are just some of the words the American and British press have used to describe Germany’s immediate future after Sunday’s elections threw up a fractured mandate. Indeed, for the first time in five federal elections and 16 years, Angela Merkel was not on the ballot when Germany voted for its next government.
But Merkel, who had declared in 2018 that she wouldn’t run again for the post of chancellor, isn’t done: She is now poised to handhold Germany by overseeing a smooth transition of power, very possibly to her political rivals, the Social Democratic Party (SPD). And what might seem like a political scramble for power to countries with a two-party system could actually hold valuable lessons in democracy for the U.S., in a week when Congressional Democrats and Republicans are sparring over everything from infrastructure to a potential government shutdown.
Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union–led alliance came second to the Social Democrats in the election. Both CDU leader Armin Laschet and the SPD’s chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz have said they’ll try to form coalition governments with the two next-biggest parties, the Greens and the pro-market Free Democrats.
While both leading parties engage in alliance negotiations — and these could drag on for months — Merkel will stay in office. Yet the prospect of the losing party’s incumbent head of state holding power during a political transition isn’t sparking any anxiety, as it has in recent times in the U.S. and as would undoubtedly happen in other deeply divided major democracies like India and Brazil. Instead, Merkel remains more popular than most other world leaders even after four terms. And even her fiercest political opponents know that she will peacefully hand over power to Scholz if he is able to cobble together a governing coalition.
That peaceful democratic transitions are even worth discussing is a pointer to the times we live in. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is trying to discredit the country’s election system — yes, the same one that brought him to power three years ago — ahead of 2022’s vote, as criticism of his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic rocks the support he has enjoyed. He has refused to commit to handing over power if he loses.
In India, the world’s largest democracy, it’s the center-left that’s guilty of conspiracy theories. Opposition parties have often alleged that electronic voting machines used by the country can be hacked, and have insinuated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election wins are in part the result of such crimes. No one has presented conclusive evidence of large-scale tampering of electronic voting machines in India.
And the memories of Jan. 6 — when far-right supporters of then-President Donald Trump attacked the Capitol seeking to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s election win by Congress — are still fresh for most of us.
Against that backdrop, Merkel’s otherwise unremarkable final political act — the transfer of power to Germany’s next chancellor, whoever it is — should serve as a reminder of how mature leaders and stable democracies work.
But there are other vital takeaways from Germany’s election. Yes, it might take months before the country has a fresh government. However, the fact that the biggest parties know that they can’t hope to come to power on their own helps soften rough, extremist edges. Compromise is not a dirty word but a process of give-and-take that keeps all sides in check.
Consider this: Germany has never had a government run by a single pre-election alliance since reunification three decades ago. Merkel might be the world’s most prominent leader of the 21st century, but each of her four governments has been a coalition — mostly with her principal rivals, the SPD. Helmut Kohl, Germany’s longest-running leader, never had an absolute majority. Go back further, and you’ll find that West Germany’s last single-party government was in 1961.
That means that the SPD and the Greens, both of which want to expand labor rights if they come to power, are hoping to form a government with the staunchly pro-business Free Democrats. None of these parties will get everything they want, but Germany will get a government that represents a consensus that’s acceptable to all of them — and so, presumably, to their voters.
This isn’t just some German quirk. Iceland, Norway and Sweden, the three countries that rank at the top of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index, have only had coalition governments for several decades now, with no single party close to commanding a majority on its own. It’s the same story with the Middle East’s only true democracy, Israel. Perhaps what America needs is a multiparty system.
And if you want more evidence of how Germany’s election has shown a political alternative different from the polarization we’re seeing in the U.S. and many other key democracies, look no further than the fate of the major parties. The democratic socialists, Die Linke, and the far-right Alternative for Germany, both lost votes and seats. The SPD and the CDU, both centrist parties with a fundamental allegiance to Europe and a commitment to the Transatlantic partnership, are the country’s biggest political formations.
To be sure, filling Merkel’s shoes won’t be easy for either Scholz or Laschet. But they know that if they can fit into them, they’ll have Germany behind them. Sunday’s vote has shown that even in 2021, moderate policies have their appeal and that the centrist footprint can grow. Merkel’s party might have lost, but her vision has won.