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  • Acknowledging the challenges that liberal democracy, Cordell Carter ignited the discussion with his optimism for the future of the U.S. Matthew Swift explained that the disorganization that can arise from open conversations on a global scale is ultimately necessary as our nation determines its path forward in the wake of COVID-19. Swift also highlighted that to the rest of the world open dialogue can appear as a weakness, it is in fact a strength. 
  • Touching on the exceptional career of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jeh Johnson remarked on her profound importance and her personal impact on his life as his professor in law school. Both Johnson and Jane Harman agreed that Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s final wishes should be upheld, and that the next president of the U.S. should appoint the new justice. 
  • With the 2020 U.S. elections fast approaching, Johnson explained how the greatest threats facing the nation are external, with other nations potentially impacting the country’s delivery of democracy. Explaining that the next president should be at the table making arrangements and alliances, especially given COVID-19, Harman encouraged the need for critical alliances. 

“The greatest threat to our election system is when Americans lose faith in the system itself,” Laura Rosenberger

  • With partisanship at extreme levels, Swift launched into a discussion on democracy and the response of the U.S. to COVID-19. Participants discussed the role of the media, raising the fact that individuals returning to their selected news sources is encouraging increasingly fractured and polarized groups, and heavily influencing political results. 
  • The conversation then moved to the social justice movement that is occurring within the U.S. Commenting on the fact that many Americans believe that their government does not work for them anymore, Harman added to Johnson’s remark that technology has left a lot of people behind, creating “the have and the have nots.” 
  • On the issue of election security and the involvement of countries such as Russia, China, and Iran in the 2020 U.S. elections, Samantha Vinograd explained how not all threats from foreign actors are treated equally. Vinograd argued that Russia is the biggest threat to the U.S. elections, and criticized President Trump and his response to the issue of election security. 
  • With the threats to U.S. democracy being transatlantic, Laura Rosenberger reflected on Christopher Wray’s sentiment in Congress, with the greatest threat being that Americans are losing trust in the system itself. As elections are a system based on trust, the most important thing that Americans can do to mitigate threats is to show up at the polls. 

“You’ve got to show up if you want to change anything,” Matthew Swift

  • As highlighted by Vinograd, technology platforms are private entities that often have more users than countries have people. A strong understanding of platforms and the flow of information is therefore critical, given the influential power of technology platforms. With the overall goal to stop the thread of misinformation, it is important that the president also does the same.  
  • Dan Porterfield stressed the urgency of bringing people together with civility and engaging respectfully in order to make progress. With the Black Lives Matter movement coming to the forefront of global issues this year, Porterfield laid out the steps that the Aspen Institute adopted to address racial equity and place more emphasis on racial justice, as an example for other organizations to consider. 
  • With media becoming as polarized as politics, the need for a balanced understanding is imperative to keeping well informed. Vivian Schiller pointed out that one needs to actively seek quality fact-based journalism. Porterfield emphasized this point, highlighting the need to seek different sources and information grounded in facts. However, with the decrease in local news coverage, this becomes more challenging. 
  • The U.S. has seen itself as a front-runner in the global world for many years. When reflecting on the country’s lack of leadership in addressing climate change, COVID-19 response, and governance, ultimately the U.S. has been repositioned in the global world. Porterfield emphasized the need for public will and the desire to bring nations together to solve problems. 
  • Yvette Clarke returned to the topic of COVID-19, highlighting the fall in infection rates in New York City. With many New Yorkers unemployed, small businesses hurting, and widespread food insecurity, there is a struggle to regain footing due to massive investments to save human life. 

“Ongoing efforts to tamper with elections are direct attacks to our democracy,” Jeh Johnson

  • Michael Blake also acknowledged the magnitude of this moment and the 200,000+ lives that have left too early. There is no community that has experienced such great devastation due to COVID-19 than The Bronx. Despite high levels of pre-existing and long-term healthcare conditions, much of this community works in the healthcare space and cannot stay at home. With 40% of Black-owned businesses not returned post-pandemic, the next five weeks will determine the effects on communities of color. 
  • In terms of actionable change, Clarke has seen a multi-racial, multi-generational, multi-religion movement. Blake agreed that this movement will translate into votes, as the Black and Latino communities have suffered greater during this period than any other community. 
  • Lara Trump explained the real grassroots movement for the reelection of President Trump, and the enthusiasm that has surrounded President Trump’s campaign. Trump shared the President’s positivity and his consistent advocacy for “America first”. 
  • When thinking about Biden’s 2020 campaign, Blake shared his perspective that this is a very clear decision, resulting in a fight for the soul of America.
  • Focusing on the election, Amber McReynolds explained how election officials are working day and night to pull this election off. Regardless of political party, the goal is to put voters first. The U.S. postal service operates best when politics are not involved.

Key takeaways & next steps:

  • Elevating discussions around racial inequality is essential for a better future for the United States. 
  • In order to mitigate external threats to the 2020 U.S. elections, it is crucial that Americans plan their vote come November 3. More participation means a stronger election for all political persuasions. 
  • During this day and age in which media can be catered towards one’s favored beliefs, it is ultimately up to each of us to seek alternative sources and narratives, and reside in fact-based research. Media is struggling to find its footing to accurately cover all sides to various debates and discussions.


Session Speakers