Activists are discovering the power of working together to bring accountability to their communities.
As the latest issue of Thinking Minnesota reaches doorsteps, the news is dominated by the COVID-19 epidemic that began in China and now has spread worldwide. A number of states have been virtually shut down, and here in Minnesota, bars and restaurants have been closed and groups of more than 10 are being discouraged from meeting in public.
The ultimate impact of COVID-19 on both public health and the U.S. economy remains to be seen, but meanwhile every business and organization has been impacted. Center of the American Experiment is no exception. We had to postpone our Annual Dinner, featuring Sarah Huckabee Sanders, from April 4 to September 19. Other events, like our Morning in Minnesota breakfast series, have also been deferred.
But these conditions have had little or no effect on the Center’s output or impact. We were lucky to host a successful lunch forum with Amity Shlaes, who talked about her new book Great Society, shortly before such gatherings became impossible. Likewise, we launched John Phelan’s newest report on Minnesota’s economy with a press conference at the Capitol on March 13.
Despite the coronavirus shutdown, our productivity is unabated. Within the next few weeks, we will publish both Catrin Wigfall’s explosive paper on public education in Minnesota—how good is it, really?—and a groundbreaking paper on housing affordability in the Twin Cities by Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson. Both papers are previewed in this issue of Thinking Minnesota and should stimulate much-needed debate on those issues.
While we can’t meet with Minnesotans in person, we have turned to meeting virtually. Through our “Master Class in Public Policy” series, the Center’s policy fellows gave talks on timely issues using the Zoom platform, which also allows questions and comments by the audience. We encourage you to watch the video archives if you missed the live events.
We are emphasizing our electronic communications in other ways, too. Our staff is posting daily, as always, at AmericanExperiment.org, with much of the website’s content focused on issues raised by the COVID-19 epidemic. For example: How does COVID-19, so far, compare with normal flu seasons? Is “price gouging” actually a bad thing? Why are plastic bags making a comeback? Can wind and solar reliably power a hospital? If you haven’t been checking our website daily, I encourage you to do so. And on social media—including our Facebook page with 24,000 followers, Twitter, and other platforms— we are also more active than ever.
We are eager to be able to resume our ambitious program of events. Here is what is planned so far, with more on the way.
• The remaining lunch forums of 2020 (watch for one on voter fraud)
• Our Fall Briefing
• Our Morning in Minnesota breakfasts
• A series of Greater Minnesota meetings in border counties to unveil a new paper that contrasts economic development in Minnesota’s border counties with those across the state line
• A statewide series of meetings on the governor’s deeply unpopular proposed regulations requiring Minnesotans to buy electric vehicles
As we continue making the best possible use of the quiet time we are now experiencing, along with most other Minnesotans, we look forward to the day, before long, when we can again be with our fellow Minnesotans in person.