Kanye, USPS, and Covid-19: Digesting the 2020 Election (And Its Misinformation)
The 2020 Election and (Mis)information Overload
Being just 16 during the 2016 election, I remember how strange it felt to finally become more politically opinionated without being able to vote myself. Especially as a stubborn high schooler, that strange lack of autonomy led me to look forward to the 2020 presidential election and feel excited that I could actually take action and vote instead of just feeling the effects. Then, 2020 came by, and my thoughts of the election quickly became overwhelmed with thoughts of the pandemic, a massive national conversation about Black lives and our systems, murder hornets, and economic crisis.
“Unprecedented times” has quickly become the biggest cliché in recent writing, but these times also show how certain things will persist, such as the presidential election. Having been mentally preoccupied myself due to other current events, I hope that this article can serve as one resource out of many about the upcoming cycle but also as the start of a conversation about how it weaves into the chaos we’re experiencing.
Why Should I Care About The Election Now?
While it seems like the election falls into the background in times like these, it’s important to understand how politics and presidencies directly affect our current situation.
On a global scale, the POTUS has placed 3rd for Forbes’ World’s Most Powerful People, an awe-inspiring responsibility. The events of recent months, from Covid-19, its consequential recession, and nationwide protests for Black Lives Matter, perfectly exemplify the extent and gravity of the president’s responsibilities. While the election feels like it’s lying in the background, it is the power of such people as the President that has driven much of our experiences in these past few months. Therefore, the election is inextricably linked to the chaos facing the United States, and its effects extend beyond just our country’s borders.
Despite this magnitude, only around 52% of Americans are paying attention to the presidential race, compared to about 87% paying attention to news on Covid-19. These events cannot be held separately when the winner will have such a large influence on how we handle the pandemic, although neither candidate is without their critics or their attempts to leverage this for a political advantage.
Both frontrunners and their parties have been accused of stalling the process to recovery: Trump being criticized for his dismissal of scientific evidence to reduce the spread of Covid-19, and Biden criticized for his more conservative stance on reopening businesses and uplifting the economy.
The Misinformation of 2016 Exists To This Day And Its Effects
This year, the election is just one of several national issues making headlines. It seems that with all the moving parts, it’s become easier than ever for voices both loud and insidious to sow unfounded concerns in already strained minds.
However, the concept of misinformation began earlier with the 2016 election. “Fact checking” and “fake news” reached their peaks as Google search topics in late 2016 and early 2017, as the election came to a close and President Trump was inaugurated into office. Having popularized the term “fake news,” Trump popularized and even policitized the idea of misinformation into global consciousness. His impact on the phrase is nothing to scoff at, even contributing to the conversation which eventually caused players such as Facebook and the British government to stop using the term “fake news” altogether.
After the 2016 election, there also existed somewhat ironic concerns that misinformation is what got Trump elected, due to the tendency of misinformation to spread on social media and the large influx of foreign bots circulating it. While the concerns remain inconclusive, the threat of misinformation can turn people off of politics altogether, risking the US’s already low political engagement (see figure below). Misinformation has not slowed down since 2016, and the risks haven’t either.
Still, if you feel dissuaded by the influx of misinformation, I don’t blame you. A long four years later, in an election where our frontrunners have been cited to speak mostly false information 37% and 70% of the time (for Biden and Trump, respectively), it can feel exhausting trying to remain politically engaged with so many questionable claims coming from our potential future president.
Less overtly, misinformation is often politicized, and with widespread consequences. The rise of Covid-19 has shown how even issues of public health become political ones and further impede progress. Issues regarding masks and social distancing, reliably proven techniques to help reduce the spread of the virus, become attacks across party lines.
There are stark partisan lines which divide the public’s opinions on reopening businesses, a notably American phenomenon that creates political divisions where there shouldn’t be. This is especially true when half of the accounts tweeting about Covid-19 are bots, many spreading misinformation such as its link to 5G towers. Whether or not this is the intention, it can work to weaponize our political division as a country. This has hurt our ability to effectively reopen businesses, reduce the spread of Covid-19, and has put us vastly behind the rest of the world in terms of handling the pandemic and its devastating effects. Our whole country is hurting right now as a result of the strong political divisions of misinformation hindering our nation’s ability to recover.
While overwhelming at times, it’s important to be able to care enough to wade through the polarizing headlines and accusations and understand these candidates as objectively as possible. Using the resources available to think critically about what our candidates will truly do for us, especially in times of crisis, we can make these serious decisions to the best of our knowledge.
That was a lot! What now?
Even while writing this, I realized how much I needed to learn. What I do believe, however, is that it has become more important than ever to stay informed and diligent against misinformation. We must be consistently willing to learn more about the very real way our lives are affected by its prevalence. Finally, I believe it’s important to discuss the way the 2020 election plays into this dynamic. I hope that the links and resources below can serve as a landing pad for when anyone might feel overwhelmed or stuck.
A good place to start is to reach out to your loved ones and community and challenge each other to find accurate and reliable information together. This way, our communities can work to educate one another and be able to rise above the threat of misinformation. Finally, be
sure to keep in touch with United For Information, as we cover the 2020 election for our long-term campaign, and are always receptive for feedback and advice!
Potential FAQ/Resources For Further Reading
Just who’s running? What do they believe in?
Trump (R): The incumbent nominee
Biden (D): The former Vice President
Howie Hawkins (G): The presumptive candidate from the Green Party
Jo Jorgensen (L): The Libertarian Party’s candidate
Kanye West (I): the rapper is the most recently announced candidate, and has already appeared on ballots in Oklahoma
Each candidate on major issues:
By candidate: https://www.ontheissues.org/default.htm
What’s happening with the USPS and mail-in ballots?
Mail-in ballots have been a hot topic recently due to more Covid-conscious voting options, as well as facing recent pushback, most notably from the Republican Party, for its supposed vulnerability for voter fraud and partisan bias (see here why our fact checkers deemed this false).
Critical to the discussion of vote-by-mail is the USPS, who has faced a history of financial issues. A combination of lack of government funding, a 2006 law requiring them to provide 75 years of pre-funded health and pension, and the most recent pandemic, the USPS has cut overtime to lower costs. Critics are concerned that this will have a negative impact on mail-in ballots being processed. Currently, there’s an estimated 14 day turnaround, meaning ballots by mail should be sent October 20th for them to be counted by November 3rd. Financially, the CARES act allocates the USPS a $10B loan, although Trump wants to see USPS significantly increasing rates on Amazon and other e-commerce packages before granting them the bailout.
With the USPS projected to run out of cash by September as well as reduced operations, it leaves many concerned on the capabilities of running vote-by-mail in these conditions, when experts estimate that nearly 70% of votes will be cast by mail this November.
Kanye West announced his candidacy on July 4th, and consequently has missed the deadlines for North Carolina, Nevada, Florida, Michigan, Delaware, Texas, New Mexico, and Indiana, but has already applied to show up on the ballot in South Carolina, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Missouri, although South Carolina stated he also did not make their deadline.
Running under his titled “Birthday Party,” he also draws inspiration from Black Panther’s Wakanda when asked how he would run the country.
Where can I go to read more about the election?
Check here to find United For Information’s list of trusted sources, as well as the criteria we used to determine them.
Using that list, we’ve found articles from our trusted sources for:
Here’s a video on misinformation and the election featuring the Pew Research Institute, and a member from factcheck.org (another great resource)
If you’re on a website that hasn’t been featured on our whitelist or blacklist, check mediabiasfactcheck.com for a quick overview on its fact-check history as well as its political biases.
Feel free to check the sources I’ve used in this article to find out more. Reach out if there’s any issues or you want to discuss my reasoning!
And finally, if you want to start your own campaign against misinformation, feel free to contact us at U4I.