October 22, 2020

As November quickly approaches, the 2020 election is at top of mind for people across the country. Experts gathered virtually at SIPA on October 15 to discuss the roles of race, inequality, and democracy in the upcoming contest for president. 

Longtime journalist Farai Chideya-Chihota, who is currently a program officer for the Ford Foundation, joined SIPA professors Alex Hertel-Fernandez and Ester Fuchs for “Race, Inequality and Perspectives on the U.S. Elections.” SIPA’s Anya Schiffrin, director of the Technology, Media, and Communications specialization, moderated the conversation, which was co-hosted by TMAC and the U.S. Regional specialization. 

Fuchs began by discussing the importance of voter turnout and its potential to determine the upcoming election. When a campaign fails or a candidate loses, she said, political pundits often overlook the role of voter turnout. The makeup of the electorate and whether racial minority voter blocs turn out in large numbers will be critical to the result of this election.

Schiffrin then asked Chideya about the role of Facebook and other social media in sowing divisiveness and their role in impacting elections. Chideya highlighted the harmful effects of microtargeting, which primarily targets Black and Muslim voters. For example, microtargeted political ads may discourage Black voters from voting by suggesting that voting is pointless and they should sit out of the election.

Hertel-Fernandez then spoke about the elite capture of the U.S democracy and how trusted institutions, like the Senate, Supreme Court, and Electoral College, are not actually representative or democratic in nature. The makeup of the Senate, he said, skews in favor of less dense rural populations that often lean conservative. Adding states to the union, as some Democrats have advocated, or reforming the Supreme Court are Democratic policies to look out for, Hertel-Fernandez said.

Looking ahead to Election Day on November 3, Chideya warned that the nation may not see official results for weeks. Should former Vice President Joe Biden win, she noted, the Democratic policy agenda will be interesting to keep an eye on. Because of the broad base and diverse coalition that the party has built, it is difficult to predict what types of policies would be passed early on.

Hertel-Fernandez added that a potential economic recovery bill in the wake of COVID-19 could be a platform for various parts of the Democratic Party, including the progessive wing, to include their policy ideas.

This event was part of the Technology, Media, and Communications specialization’s series on the 2020 election, which concluded October 20 with “The U.S. Elections through International Eyes.” 

Race, Inequality and Perspectives on the US Elections
October 15

Race, Inequality, and Perspectives on the US Election