Peterson on Scenarios for a Messy Election Aftermath

Public Policy Professor Mark Peterson spoke to Elite Daily about a post-election scenario that has raised concerns: What would happen if President Trump lost reelection but refused to give up power? Trump has made multiple comments suggesting that he would not commit to stepping down if he lost the election. According to Peterson, this scenario is highly unlikely. Election results are verified through the Electoral College and then declared by Congress, he explained. An incumbent president who fails to win a second term yet refuses to leave the White House may be escorted off the premises by the newly elected president’s Secret Service detail once power changes hands on Inauguration Day. Peterson added that Trump’s claims of voter fraud are baseless and “undermine the confidence that people have in our institutions and in our elected officials.” And he expressed concern about potential violence from informal right-wing militias who might be triggered into action by a Trump loss.

After the Pandemic, a Focus on Transportation Equity

An article in the Hill on the post-pandemic future of public transportation featured research presented at this year’s UCLA Lake Arrowhead Symposium. The virtual learning series, hosted by the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, explored how the transportation sector can recover from the economic shock of COVID-19 in an equitable manner. The Hill cited two scholars who presented research during the symposium. Deborah Salon of Arizona State University shared results from a survey finding that many employees may prefer to continue working from home even after pandemic restrictions are lifted, decreasing commuter demand for transit options. Giovanni Circella of UC Davis pointed to a “massive shift” toward car travel among those who have reduced their reliance on public transit. “In the other direction, among those reducing driving, pretty much nobody is increasing the use of transit,” he said. 


Gilens on American Attitudes Toward Welfare

A Fortune article summarized Public Policy Chair Martin Gilens’ analysis of American attitudes toward welfare in order to better understand the effect of the pandemic on the country. New studies have found that the poorest Americans have gotten poorer during the pandemic, despite unemployment benefit programs such as the $2.2 trillion CARES Act. On the other side of the U.S.-Canada border, Canadians received $2,000 deposited directly into their bank accounts days after filling out an online form as part of the Canadian Economic Recovery Benefit. Canada’s social safety net and collectivist mindset have supported Canadians during the pandemic, resulting in fewer deaths and COVID-19 infections compared to the U.S. after adjusting for population size differences, the article stated. It cited Gilens’ book “Why Americans Hate Welfare,” which argues that individualism, economic self-interest, the trope of the “undeserving” welfare recipient and racial discrimination each contribute to American attitudes on wealth redistribution through taxation.

Science Matters, Torres-Gil Says

The Larchmont Buzz highlighted Professor of Social Welfare and Public Policy Fernando Torres-Gil’s perspectives on the eradication of polio and lessons for the COVID-19 era at an online event marking World Polio Awareness Day. Polio cases have been reduced by 99.9% since Rotary launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988, the article noted. Torres-Gil, a public health expert who survived polio contracted as an infant, told fellow Rotarians that he is concerned about mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic. “Science matters, unity matters, public-private partnerships matter,” said Torres-Gil, director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging at UCLA Luskin. “That’s what made the fight against polio work. … Unfortunately, it has been the exact opposite with COVID-19.” In addition to a death toll that has climbed past 200,000, the credibility of the scientific community is in danger, Torres-Gil explained. “The health of the nation is not a partisan issue,” he said. “We need data and facts.”

Gilens on the Gender Gap in U.S. Politics

Public Policy Chair Martin Gilens was featured in a New York Times article on the gender gap in U.S. politics. Over the years, women have been more likely than men to favor government spending on social issues. Trying to explain the gap, some scholars argued that women were voting in their self-interest. The article cited a counterargument Gilens wrote in the 1980s. “I do not believe that ‘women’s issues’ such as the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) or abortion, nor economic conditions such as the growing number of impoverished women, are primarily responsible for the gender gap,” he wrote. “The gender gap reflects traditional differences in male and female values and personalities, differences such as men’s greater competitiveness and concerns with issues of power and control, and women’s greater compassion and nurturance, rejection of force and violence, and concern with interpersonal relations.” In 2020, Gilens noted, “women see [President Trump] as being the opposite of someone who is caring.” 

Wachs on Understanding the History of L.A. Traffic

A StreetsBlog article highlighted the findings of a new paper by Professor Emeritus of Urban Planning Martin Wachs and graduate students Peter Sebastian Chesney and Yu Hong Hwang about the history of Los Angeles traffic congestion. Their paper, “A Century of Fighting Traffic Congestion in Los Angeles: 1920-2020,” delves into the many arguments over how to battle congestion in the city over the last 100 years. While solutions including improvements in public transit and construction of new freeways have been proposed, these strategies have never brought more than a temporary reprieve from the unrelenting growth in congestion, the authors say. They argue that in order to address traffic congestion today, experts must understand the city’s complicated history with public transit and transportation infrastructure. Today’s proposals are not much different from past solutions, and even though mistakes have been made, it’s not clear that lessons have been learned, they wrote.

Ong on Fallout From a Flawed Census

Paul Ong, director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin, spoke to KCRW’s Press Play about flaws in the 2020 Census, which has been cut short by two weeks. Ong said that, 10 years ago, about 5% of households responding to the census provided inaccurate information. “I suspect it’s going to be much worse this time around given the pandemic and given the politicization of the whole process,” he said. Ong also responded to the Trump administration’s efforts to subtract undocumented immigrants from census totals. The policy would deepen the political alienation of a broad group of people, including people of color, low-income populations and immigrants who are in the country legally but who are not yet citizens, Ong said. It would also drain political and economic resources from disadvantaged neighborhoods, with “long-term implications for who gets what and who’s left out.”


Diaz on the Increasing Influence of Voters of Color

Several media outlets have called on Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, for insights on election-related issues including the presidential debates, voter suppression and the important role of voters of color. On ABC7’s Eyewitness Newsmakers, beginning at minute 16:35, Diaz addressed misconceptions about the engagement of the Latino electorate, noting that younger voters do not turn out at the same rate as older Americans. She added, “Our studies show that 30% of Americans that will cast a ballot on Nov. 3 are non-white. This is really important and will only continue to increase for foreseeable generations.” On WHYY’s Radio Times, Diaz said some states are instituting “arduous hoops to overcome the ballot box … at a time when we are still not over the hump with this pandemic.” She concluded, “I think that this election is a lot about whether or not people are going to be able to cast a ballot without risking their lives.” 


Yaroslavsky on the Question That Will Decide the Election

KCAL9 News called on Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, to provide analysis of the final presidential debate of the 2020 election. Donald Trump and Joe Biden both delivered their messages effectively, he said, but noted that the debate came after 48 million Americans had already cast their ballots. Yaroslavsky weighed in on the role that personal character will play as voters choose their candidate and on the possibility that Russian agents will sow chaos on Election Day. On COVID-19, “Trump has no defense for his inaction,” Yaroslavsky said. “This issue is one that every man and woman in this country understands viscerally, in their gut, because they all know somebody who’s gotten the virus and many of us know people who’ve died of the virus.” He concluded, “Do you want four more years of what we’ve had for the last four, or do you want something different? That’s going to decide this election.”


Akee on Achieving Equity for Indigenous People

In an interview with the Center for Public Integrity, Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee explored how Indigenous people fit into the national discussion of racial justice in the United States. Akee noted the similarities between Black and Indigenous people when it comes to overly harsh policing and intrusion into communities of color. However, he explained that the inherent sovereignty of tribal nations is an additional layer of complexity that differentiates Indigenous people from other communities of color. There is allyship and alignment of some issues between Black Lives Matter and Indigenous communities, but Akee argued that Native American issues and those of other communities of color are “distinctly different legally, politically, socially and culturally.” Through his research, Akee has found that local conditions improve in Indigenous communities under self-governance. Equity for Indigenous peoples starts with sovereignty and reclaiming land, he said.