During his visit to a Ford Motor Company plant in Michigan last month, President Donald Trump took time out from reviewing the plant’s conversion to ventilator production to toss out a few zingers about a different kind of conversion – the pivot of some states, particularly in the face of a global pandemic, to a vote-by-mail system. 

   “We’re not going to go to vote-by-mail,” Trump vowed. “Vote-by-mail is fraught with fraud and abuse.”

   All spring long, the President had unleashed a barrage of anti-vote-by-mail tweets and comments reiterating baseless claims. In April, he took time during a White House coronavirus briefing to deliver another denunciation: “You get thousands and thousands of people sitting in somebody’s living room signing ballots all over the place. I think mail-in voting is a terrible thing.” 

   Even when they’re outlandishly hyperbolic, the President’s continuous diatribes against vote-by-mail have compounded into a stance that seems to have congealed among his base. So, just as attitudes over public health precautions like wearing masks or reopening beaches and businesses seem to be drawn along ever more partisan lines this year, now the crucial matter of conducting safe elections is becoming an increasingly red-blue debate. 

   This is an untenable state of affairs for a nation that considers itself the world’s flagship democracy, and it deserves to be scrutinized. Let’s take a look at a couple of different examples of what’s going wrong and who’s trying to fix it.

   Unless you were living under a rock in April, you couldn’t have missed the Spring Election debacle in Wisconsin. 

   On March 24, with 457 reported coronavirus cases in his state and strong indications of an upward trend, Governor Tony Evers announced a statewide “Safer at Home” order, with provisions allowing for people to go out for essential needs like going to the doctor or getting food.

   But he didn’t address the state’s Spring Election, which was scheduled for April 7. The election was a significant one, as it included the presidential primary, local races, and a handful of judicial positions, including a hotly contested race for a seat on the State Supreme Court. It was expected to draw a large turnout.

   Yet about this, Evers – a Democrat – remained circumspect. He previously had locked horns with the Republican-led Legislature over issues such as school funding and gun safety, and he seemed to doubt whether he had the political clout or the authority to delay the election. 

   As he hedged on this issue, the pandemic continued to assert itself throughout the state and Wisconsinites were beginning to see the handwriting on the wall. 

   In growing numbers, poll workers – many of them senior citizens – were notifying elections officials that they’d be staying home and sitting this one out. It was becoming apparent that a drastic worker shortage was going to force elections officials to consolidate voting places into central locations that could handle more capacity and social distancing – not only in high school gymnasiums and community rec centers but also in vacated commercial spaces – an old K-Mart store in Oconomowoc, a former Sears store in the Janesville Mall. Milwaukee, meanwhile, was paring back from its typical 180 polling places – to just five.

   At the same time, among voters there was an unprecedented surge in requests for absentee ballots. In Milwaukee, one of the voter education groups leading the charge was a civic engagement nonprofit called BLOC - Black Leaders Organizing for Communities. BLOC Executive Director Angela Lang said that her organization had already undertaken a major pivot in their outreach strategies – they hadn’t waited for the Governor’s  “Safer at Home” order.

   “What did it for us was a week earlier, when the Milwaukee Public School District shut down,” Land said. “MPS rarely closes, even in snow, so we thought OK, this is a big deal.”

   Committed to doing year-round engagement within the black neighborhoods of Milwaukee, BLOC quickly switched over from its boots-on-the-ground practice of block-by-block canvassing to phone banking and texting instead.

   “It was a bit of an adjustment,” Lang said. “We had 48 hours to uproot our program – we hadn’t had an account with virtual programs and we had to hustle to learn the administrative part.” 

   She said they got busy training their BLOC ambassadors in how to use Google docs, e-mail, Zoom – and then they were back at it, reaching out to community members by phone to conduct wellness checks as well as to get out the electoral message about applying for absentee ballots. 

   But in those calls, they were getting feedback that some people were having trouble using the system for requesting an absentee ballot. Other people told them that while they  had requested their ballots some time before, they had not yet seen their ballots arrive. 

   This story was being repeated around the state as county elections offices, overwhelmed by the unprecedented number of absentee ballot applications, were amassing a backlog of unanswered requests.

   Additionally, there were some instances where miscommunications between the post office and the elections office led to ballots being returned to the sender, rather than delivered to the applicant.

   BLOC joined other advocacy groups that were filing lawsuits, arguing for a delay of the election until absentee ballots arrived and safe participation could be guaranteed. 

    Just five days before the election, a landslide of events contributed to further chaos. 

   A ruling on April 2 by U.S. District Judge William Conley recognized that the delay in getting absentee ballots to voters would deal a significant blow to the election’s integrity. But believing that changing the date of the election was not within his purview, Conley instead decided to extend the deadline for the return of absentee ballots. Under his order, the April 7 election date wouldn’t be changed, but voters would be allowed to return their absentee ballots up to April 13.

   The Republican National Committee joined the state Republican Party and the Republican-led State Legislature in filing an appeal to Conley’s order the very same day.

   Elections officials, meanwhile, now had the additional task of including instructions about the new April 13 deadline with the absentee ballots they were trying to push out.

   Then on April 3, Governor Evers called for a special session of the Legislature, asking that the state’s lawmakers cancel in-person voting due to coronavirus concerns. He also asked for an extension of the deadline for mail-in ballots.

   But the Republican leadership in the Wisconsin Legislature declined to convene. In a joint statement, Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald accused Evers of “feckless leadership” and caving to “national liberal special interest groups.”

   “Hundreds of thousands of workers are going to their jobs every day, serving in essential roles in our society,” they continued. “There’s no question that an election is just as important as getting take-out food.”

   The Republican leaders insisted that the election be held as originally intended.

   April 6, the day before the election, was filled with a series of events that surely caused whiplash among Wisconsin’s electorate: 

   Apparently deciding that he did have authority after all, Evers issued an executive order that would postpone the election for two months. 

   The Wisconsin Supreme Court, in a 4-2 vote, quickly batted the Governor’s order down. 

   And later in the day, in a 5-4 vote that split along the ideological lines Americans have come to expect, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Judge Conley’s decision to extend the deadline for returning absentee ballots.

   “This court has repeatedly emphasized that lower federal courts should ordinarily not alter the election rules on the eve of an election,” the SCOTUS decision said. 

   And so, on election day, the people who had requested but never received their ballots by mail turned out in spite of the pandemic. In spite of the drastically reduced number of polling places. In spite of the hours-long lines that stretched out of the polling places, down the street, and in some cases went on for many blocks. In spite of the rain showers passing through. 

   “We knew it was going to be a gut punch,” BLOC’s Lang said. “No, democracy didn’t win. If you are not able to cast your ballot in a safe environment – there were more cases of people getting sick – this election came with a cost.”

   On April 7, election day, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported 2,578 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Three weeks later that number had more than doubled to 6,289.

   There is a twist to this story, however, and it is a consequential one. 

   Democrats had been disappointed but unsurprised by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling against the extended election deadline. But among the voters who had received absentee ballots, not everyone had heard about it. Absentee ballots – some 79,000 of them – came flooding in after election day. It was shocking to think of the number of votes that were going to have to be invalidated. 

   But then somebody did a closer reading of the Supreme Court ruling and discovered a subtle, and quite possibly unintentional, discrepancy in language between the SCOTUS ruling and Wisconsin’s election law. While state law decreed that absentee ballots had to be received by election day, the language in the SCOTUS opinion said they had to be postmarked by election day. Since Supreme Court rulings supersede state law, this wound up allowing thousands more ballots to be counted than would have been under the state’s more restrictive law.  

   In effect, the U.S. Supreme Court itself had altered election rules on the eve of an election.

   According to a report published by the Washington Post, Democrats in other parts of the country believe this order could set a game changing precedent, and now they are filing lawsuits seeking similar postmark rules in other states, with the Supreme Court ruling to back them up. In swing states, after all, the matter of a few thousand votes can change the outcome of an election. 

   Needless to say, Republicans are pushing back.   

   A month after the election, still appearing somewhat shell-shocked from the experience, Wisconsin Elections Commissioners and staff convened in a Zoom call to discuss lessons learned and how to apply them to upcoming elections. 

   After first taking time to help the Boomer-generation commissioners overcome some of the user error glitches that seem to bedevil all virtual meetings, Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Meagan Wolfe was muted but professional in her presentation to the commissioners.

   “We learned a great deal about the absentee by mail process which in so many ways is new to us,” Wolfe said. She talked about streamlining the online system for absentee ballot requests, clarifying voter instructions on the absentee ballots, implementing tracking systems on the ballots, and working with the United States Postal Service on better design. 

   Fortunately, Wolfe told the commissioners, these changes will be paid for with funds allocated to Wisconsin via the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Earlier this year, as part of its economic stimulus response to the pandemic, Congress authorized the allocation of $400 million to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to make payments to states to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus” for the 2020 federal election cycle.

   Sustaining some of these processes long term, however, will require additional support, Wolfe said. 

   “We know what improvements need to be made,” she concluded, “but that’s not to say it won’t be an incredible challenge to change our ballots in time for the August and November elections.” 

   Ballots for the August election are scheduled to go out later this month.

   As in Wisconsin, the situation was changing fast in South Carolina this spring.

   On March 6, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control reported its first two cases of coronavirus. Governor Henry McMaster announced the closure of all public schools just a little over a week later, and by March 19 he had shut down dine-in service in restaurants and bars, and called for all public colleges and universities in the state to finish their semesters online. 

   The day after that, the State General Assembly shut down due to coronavirus concerns. And while McMaster refrained from issuing a shelter in place order at that time, he did restrict public gatherings of three or more people.

   By the end of March, the Palmetto State had 925 cases of COVID-19, with 18 deaths associated with the virus.

   In a letter dated March 30th, State Election Commission executive director Marci Andino sent a letter to the Governor as well as to state Senate President Senator Harvey Peeler and House Speaker Jay Lucas – all Republicans – requesting emergency changes to the state’s upcoming June primary election in light of the pandemic. She pointed out that in polling places it would be difficult to maintain the social distancing being promoted by the state’s public safety and health officials. So she suggested several options for minimizing the risk – these included expanding absentee voting, putting early voting in place prior to election day, and voting by mail. 

   The South Carolina legislature was called back for a quick Special Session on April 8 to consider measures that would assure funding the state’s operational needs through the next few months of the coronavirus crisis, including a proposed $15 million that would allow election officials to put safe election procedures into place for the June primary. The House gave the bill its unanimous approval, and then those members scattered for home. But the Senate started trying to tinker with deals that had taken weeks of negotiations between House and Senate leaders, and passage of the bill stalled.  

   That’s when Rhodes Bailey, a candidate running in the Democratic primary for a seat in the state legislature, filed suit in the South Carolina Supreme Court. He sought a declaration that would extend absentee voting to all voters attempting to maintain social distance during the COVID-19 crisis – specifically, through the end of 2020. Bailey was joined in the suit by another Democratic candidate, along with the South Carolina Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. 

   “It’s shameful the legislature refused to act on Director Andino’s warning and enact procedures that would make our elections safe,” Bailey said. “Since the legislature won’t do its job, we’re asking the Court to allow election officials to expand absentee balloting to make sure this is a free and fair election.”

   But there’s a peculiar twist to this story, too: the lawsuit was filed against Executive Director Andino of the South Carolina Election Commission. In a second letter written just days after the first one, Andino had walked back her proposals for safe voting. 

   The South Carolina Supreme Court heard this case on May 12, in what Chief Justice Don Beatty termed its “maiden voyage” at videoconferencing. (As it was for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, this new platform proved to be a daunting challenge for some of the South Carolina Justices.) 

   In this hearing, Justice Kaye Hearn asked a pointed question of the South Carolina Election Commission’s legal representation. 

   “I’m just wondering if you can explain to me the change of heart and the change of position of Ms. Andino from her original letter on March 30… when she was looking to identify solutions because of this pandemic and it seemed she did such an about-face in a matter of weeks when her pleading was filed. Can you help me with that?”

   The counsel deflected with a promise to submit clarifying paperwork after the Court session. That may have answered the question for the Court, but those of us who were viewing the proceedings online were left mystified.

   “That sits with the idea that the Governor probably signaled that this wasn’t going to work and he wasn’t going to go along with this,” surmised Dr. Robert Oldendick, executive director of the Institute for Public Service and Policy Research and political science professor at the University of South Carolina. “It might have been better for her to backtrack.”

   With over 40 years in the field of public policy research, Oldendick has developed some equanimity regarding the ongoing political fray. He says when it comes to concerns that all-mail balloting has the potential for fraud, there is solid research from the Brennan Center for Justice, a respected nonpartisan law and policy institute, that the risk of that is low. 

   “But as with many other issues that we’re faced with today, people have confirmation bias,” Oldendick said. “They’re going to believe what they want to believe. It’s very difficult given the increase of polarization over the last 20 years.”

   That polarization was evident during this hearing as Democrats and Republicans sparred over what, in saner times, might have been considered simply a matter of public health. 

   Democratic counsel Bruce Spiva made his case for expanding the potential scope of South Carolina’s statute that allows voters to request an absentee ballot for “physically disabled” reasons. Noting South Carolina’s recently established social distancing precautions with regard to COVID-19, Spiva reasoned that in this extraordinary era of a pandemic, any registered voter who is abiding by such precautions should be eligible for an absentee ballot.  

   “All parties really agree on this point that COVID-19 will make it difficult to vote,” Spiva said.

   Attorney Rob Tyson, representing the South Carolina Republican Party, quickly tried to put the brakes on that argument by accusing the Democrats of using the pandemic as an excuse. 

   “Just as a starting point, let’s be clear: any representation to this court that they only want to clarify the law but fails to mention their frontal assault on our state election laws is not an accurate portrayal of their position,” Tyson said.

    “We believe the petitioners want to read the absentee ballot statute into oblivion.”

   The hour-and-a-quarter-long hearing also touched on issues of whether it was appropriate to intervene in the midst of an election season, Center for Disease Control recommendations, and (referencing the Wisconsin example) how the possibility of fewer poll workers at South Carolina polls would impact wait lines at the polls.

   Spiva asked the Court to provide an interpretation of high risk that would encompass a broad swath of the population, noting as a specific example “the vastly disproportionate rates of [COVID-19] infection and death among the African American population in South Carolina and elsewhere.”

   A few days later, Professor Todd Shaw reflected on the arguments that were made during the hearing. Shaw, who works in USC’s Political Science Department alongside Professor Oldendick, has conducted significant research into the voting behavior of the African-American community. 

   This year, he has been following an increasingly competitive race for the U.S. Senate. South Carolina’s incumbent Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is facing a serious challenge from Democratic candidate Jaime Harrison, who is African-American. 

      Both Democrats and Republicans have a high-stakes interest in how easily South Carolinian voters can exercise their right to vote. 

   “Not being able to give some real safeguards during a pandemic, that will be a factor,” Shaw said.   

   In the end, it turned out that state legislators had met again in special session on the same day that the State Supreme Court hearing was being conducted. This time, both bodies of the General Assembly approved a temporary measure to allow no-excuse-needed absentee ballots for the June 9 primaries, and Governor McMaster signed the bill into law the next day. 

   As a result, the South Carolina Supreme Court dismissed Rhodes Bailey’s case – not, as the Court took pains to point out, on any of the grounds argued by the South Carolina GOP motion, but because the Legislature’s temporary provision for the primary election made the case’s claim no longer a “judiciable controversy.” 

   As for elections that would take place after the primary, the Court said, “It is the Legislature which bears the constitutional obligation to ensure that elections are carried out in such a manner as to allow all citizens the right to vote.”

   As the original plaintiff, Bailey expressed a mix of disappointment and vindication. 

    “Let’s be clear about what happened here,” he said. “Our legislature had no plan to protect voters in June until we filed suit and shamed it into action…
   “Unfortunately, the Supreme Court is now leaving it up to these same legislators to act in time to protect voters in November. So, we’ve still got some work to do, but nothing worth doing is ever easy.” 

   The debate around voting by mail continues to swirl in social media and in the press. In fact, the very term, “vote-by-mail,” has become such a hot button for some factions, that some supporters of the concept are rebranding it “vote from home.”

   Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto – whatever you want to call it, the reality is that more than half of the states in this country already are conducting at least some of their elections by mail, and five states have made the switch to all-mail elections and aren’t looking back. 

   Approval of a citizen’s initiative in 1998 led to Oregon being the first state in the country to conduct elections exclusively by mail. Washington followed suit in 2005, and Colorado, Utah, Hawaii have embraced all-mail elections since then. 

   The advantages of mail-in voting typically include more convenience for the vote (No long lines! No rushing to the polling place after work!), and financial savings for the state. Because even when states like Washington elect to pay the return postage for voters (that way they can avoid the complaint that voters having to pay for a return stamp amounts to a poll tax), that cost is significantly less than having to train and pay for all of those temporary workers to sit at hundreds of polling places on election day. 

   And as the National Conference of State Legislatures points out, while “all-mail” elections means that every registered voter receives a ballot by mail, it doesn’t necessarily follow that voters have to return their ballots by mail.

   In Washington State, for example, voters can return their ballot by mail or go to one of hundreds of secured election drop boxes up to 8 PM on Election Day. During an election, ballots are collected from each drop box regularly by two elections staff members who use a chain of custody process to transport and verify all ballots.

   In addition, Washington State voters also can choose to hand-deliver their ballots to county elections offices or other designated vote centers in the days leading up to and including election day.

   While Washington State looks like a blue state during presidential election years, it’s actually more complicated than that. The state’s two rugged mountain ranges, the Cascades and the Olympics, provide some generalized geographical definition between liberal and conservative voters. The farmers and nuclear engineers east of the Cascades tend to vote for conservatives, as do the timber communities clustered around the Olympic Peninsula. On the other hand, folks sandwiched between the two ranges in the Puget Sound lowlands of western Washington are more likely to fit the liberal profile typically assigned to the Left Coast. 

   Kim Wyman, a Republican, has served as Washington’s Secretary of State since 2013, and before that as a county elections director for nearly a decade. She has presided over scores of elections. And she knows vote-by-mail shouldn’t be a red-blue issue. A strong advocate for her own state’s vote-by-mail process, she has stepped up her efforts to reassure voters and elections colleagues elsewhere in the country that mail-in elections are secure and trustworthy.

   In a recent piece in USA Today, Wyman wrote, “Voter confidence is not a pillar of our democracy, it is the pillar.”

   That is why she has been taking a proactive role in educating other elections officials around the country about common-sense practices they can adopt to expand their absentee or mail-in voting procedures in a secure manner.

   With elections officials from other vote-by-mail states, she appeared in a video on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission website to provide nuts-and-bolts advice on everything from equipment recommendations, working with the United States Postal Service, designing the physical layout of elections facilities for efficiency, and underscoring the importance of putting consistent processes into practice across all counties in a state.

      To questions about whether mail voting leads to more fraud, she responded, “I am confident that the answer is no.”

   Wyman touts her state’s chain-of-custody safeguards for every ballot, the special systems in place to prevent computer hacking and ensure voter list integrity, and the practice of having human reviewers match voter signatures on file.

   And for those who worry about expanded turnout favoring Democratic candidates, Wyman points to cases from Ohio to Utah to California to show that vote-by-mail doesn’t have a meaningful impact one way or the other on the outcomes of partisan elections.

   The Washington chapter of the nonpartisan League of Women Voters has worked with Wyman and state legislators in the introduction of several bills in the Washington State Legislature pertaining to voter access and election security.

   Kathy Sakahara, LWV/Washington’s chair on elections, voting rights, and campaign finance, ticks off a long list of successes.  In 2018, the Washington State Legislature passed, and Governor Jay Inslee signed into law, the Access to Democracy package of bills, which included automatic registration, same-day voter registration, pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds, and the DISCLOSE Act, which was a nation-leading transparency effort to ensure campaign finance disclosure.

   But Kirstin Mueller, chair of LWV/Washington’s Election Security Committee, says there are a few remaining concerns. 

   While Washington State mandates post-election audits, county auditors are allowed a choice of four different types of audits. If Mueller had her druthers, she’d like to see all of them conducting the most rigorous type of audit, called a risk-limiting audit. But currently, “nobody’s doing it.”  

   Also on her to-do list: “We’d like to see Washington State be 100 percent paper ballot” – but voters in the military and overseas are still allowed to return ballots via e-mail or fax. 

   Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Mueller says she has heard more talk of internet voting since the pandemic may make it more difficult for people to get out to vote – “and I’d really like to push back on that.

   “There is no way to secure voting over the internet and we cannot give up our elections when there is so much controversy over foreign and domestic interference,” she said. “We just really need to have that security that our election results are accurate.” 

   The use of paper ballots, mailed in and subjected to a rigorous set of scrutinies, is the way to do that.

   In all of this talk about the benefits of vote-by-mail, there’s one big elephant left in the room. That’s the future of the United States Postal Service.

   The history of this agency is firmly rooted in America’s colonial history, when Benjamin Franklin was elected by the Second Continental Congress to head a committee charged with establishing a postal system throughout the colonies. In July of 1775, he was appointed Postmaster General.

   When the colonies became a nation, President George Washington signed the act that established the Post Office Department, and it was officially elevated to Cabinet status 80 years later. 

   But Republican antipathy toward the agency stretches back to 1970, when President Richard Nixon, fed up with striking postal workers, signed the Postal Reorganization Act. While the move gave the postal worker unions much of what they wanted, it also removed the Post Office Department from Cabinet-level status and reconceived it as the United States Postal Service.

   Now operating as a quasi-governmental agency, the USPS has been negatively impacted by the rise of e-mail over the last couple of decades as well as competition from private delivery services.  And at the same time, Republican-led Congresses that have been skeptical of unions and would favor privatizing the service have passed legislation such as the Postal Accountability Enhancement Act, which has saddled the USPS with onerous financial obligations. The agency has suffered years of annual operating losses, largely due to the accrual of unpaid mandatory retiree health benefits, and now COVID-19 has led to a further loss in revenue.

   Calls for Congress to address these shortfalls in the CARES Act funding resulted in a $10 billion loan to USPS, which is nowhere near what the agency has asked for in order to continue its operations through this year. 

   President Trump and other Republicans have indicated that they might not mind letting the USPS fail.

   Current USPS Chief Megan Brennan is retiring on June 15, and both her Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman and the vice chair of the USPS Board of Governors David Williams have departed before her, which will lead a leadership vacuum at a time when the Postal Service’s survival is viewed as essential for an effective election in the fall.

   Declining a request to be interviewed for this article, the USPS instead responded with a cautiously worded statement that does not address the most pressing issues it seems to be facing.

   “As we anticipate that many voters may choose to use the mail to participate in the upcoming elections due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are conducting and will continue to proactively conduct outreach with state and local election officials and Secretaries of State so that they can make informed decisions and educate the public about what they can expect when using the mail to vote.  As part of these outreach efforts, we will discuss our delivery processes and will consult with election officials about how they can design their mailings in a manner that comport with postal regulations, improve mail piece visibility, and ensure efficient and cost-effective processing and delivery.”

   But others outside of the USPS are more forthright in addressing looming concerns. 

   The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is composed of 100 organizations including church organizations, labor unions, disability rights and immigrant rights activists, the League of Women Voters, and more. This coalition recently sent a strongly worded letter to Congress urging for robust funding of the USPS in the next coronavirus response package.

   Calling the USPS “an essential and critical public service to the people of our nation,” the letter added, “A vote against adequate, timely funding for the USPS is an anti-civil rights vote.”

   And Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman joined with Secretary of State Jim Condos, her Democratic counterpart in Vermont, in issuing a public letter that stated unequivocally, “This is not a political or partisan issue – voters in red and blue states depend on the Postal Service to participate in our democracy…. Our democracy relies on this critical institution, and secretaries of state need Congress to do its part to ensure the foundation of our elections does not crumble.”

   The importance of a national mail system and the essential safeguard of having paper-ballot elections have become intertwined in the 21st century. Both have deep roots in our history. Both are vital to our future. And both are under varying degrees of attack right now by entities that one might, in less crazily partisan times, expect to behave as allies.

   But civic-minded Americans – whether they are elected officials like Kim Wyman, or activists like Rhodes Bailey, Angela Lang, Kathy Sakahara or Kirstin Mueller, or devoted students and teachers of the political system like Professors Oldendick and Shaw – understand that this country’s swing toward demagoguery and extreme chauvinism is in danger of harming our nation’s very framework.

   “If you’re leading with a candidate, that’s not enough,” Angela Lang emphasized in our phone interview. “It’s important for people to understand the roles and responsibilities of the offices themselves. It’s really understanding how the political system works.”

   As our nation navigates the global pandemic, the civil unrest and the bitterly fractious politics of this presidential election year, it ends up being we, the people, who will determine if we can preserve and improve on these systems and hold this country together.

   Just as candidate Rhodes Bailey said, we’ve still got some work to do.


Barbara Lloyd McMichael is a freelance writer living in the Pacific Northwest.






Barbara McMichael

Barbara Lloyd McMichael is based in the Pacific Northwest and writes about books and culture. She writes a syndicated weekly book review column called  “The Bookmonger” that focuses on Northwest books and authors. Her PR for People® Book Review is written exclusively for The Connector. 

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