Coronavirus pandemic realigns US democracy

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Milwaukee resident Jennifer Taff holds a sign as she waits in line to vote at Washington High School in Milwaukee on April 7, 2020. “I’m disgusted. I requested an absentee ballot almost three weeks ago and never got it. I have a father dying from lung disease and I have to risk my life and his just to exercise my right to vote." She said she'd been in line almost two hours. Photo credit: Patricia McKnight/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Andy Slavitt helped save Obamacare. Now he’s helping the Trump White House cope with COVID-19. Lengthy threads on his increasingly influential Twitter feed get hundreds of mentions an hour.   

In an extensive interview, Slavitt tells Warren Olney that the pandemic is more important than partisanship. “We’re not in a moment that is Democrat versus Republican … or the U.S. versus China. We’re in a moment where we’re trying to keep as many people alive as possible.”

But despite the coronavirus, bitter partisanship was alive and well this week in Wisconsin. The U.S. Supreme Court sided with Republican legislators and refused the Democratic governor’s last-minute demand to postpone the presidential primary.  

Angry voters took a risk anyway, says Politico national correspondent Natasha Korecki. “Some of their faces were practically bandaged to keep them safe.  And it rained, and it was a hail storm, and they had umbrellas, and they were standing there … like something I’ve never seen before.” 

UC Irvine law professor Rick Hasen calls this a bad sign, as red and blue states prepare to hold November’s presidential elections. Hasen is  also author of “Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust, and the Threat to American Democracy.

He defines the basic issue: “Republicans tend to believe that making it easier for people to register and vote helps the Democratic Party.”   

Because of coronavirus restrictions, democrats want to revise voter ID, extend early voting, and make mail-in voting easier. Hasen notes, “We were already on track for the largest amount of election litigation … probably in the country’s history. COVID-19 is going to add, I think, tremendously to the burden on the courts.” 

He adds, “In both the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court on the same day, the courts divided along partisan ideological lines. That is really a bad sign for November.” 

Credits

Guests:
Natasha Korecki - National political correspondent at Politico - @natashakorecki, Rick Hasen - University of California, Irvine - @rickhasen, Andy Slavitt - Bipartisan Policy Center - @ASlavitt

Host:
Warren Olney

Producer:
Andrea Brody