• Mike Pence Showed Just How Hard It Is to Defend Donald Trump

    C-Span/ZUMA Wire

    The most memorable elements of Wednesday’s vice presidential debate had little to do with the campaign itself. One of the top Google search results was pink-eye. At one point, a fly landed on Mike Pence’s head and stayed there for two minutes before disappearing—as if it, too, had somewhere it would rather be.

    The VP debate shouldn’t move the needle—it never does—but it does offer a glimpse of two campaigns at radically different places right now. And right now, the Trump campaign just doesn’t have a lot in its tank. Pence, far more so than Trump in his debate last week, stuck to his message and hit the talking points like he’d practiced them in a mirror. He spoke directly to “the American people” a few times, furrowed his brow when he wanted to look disappointed (which was often), and even said something nice about Sen. Kamala Harris, congratulating her on her selection to the ticket. But his performance showed just how weak the Republican ticket’s hand really is right now.

    On COVID-19, which Pence was tasked with leading the administration’s response to, the vice president struggled to land a punch. Like Trump before him, Pence invoked the Obama administration’s handling of the H1N1 pandemic of 2009. The White House botched that pandemic badly, Pence claimed, adding that if the virus had been as deadly as COVID-19, two million people could have died. That’s a pretty big if! Asking voters to blame Joe Biden for what happened to them in an alternate universe than the one in which they lived only underscores how flimsy Pence and Trump’s record is on this pandemic. Is a counterfactual about swine flu really the best they can do? At this point, it seems like it.

    A similar problem occurred when Pence tried to attack Biden for opposing an early shutdown on travel from China. Pence explained that the travel restriction had bought the country critical time by which to prepare for a pandemic. But that’s only a good message if the country then subsequently prepared for the pandemic. As Harris rightly noted, Trump spent months downplaying the virus, killing time instead of using it. “They knew what was happening and they didn’t tell you,” she said. It’s tough to rebut something the president bragged about on tape. Pence did his best to pick and choose stats and moments that would demonstrate leadership, but there’s not really anything he can say that can reverse what Trump has done. More than 210,000 people are dead. This is all they’ve got.

    When the conversation shifted to the Supreme Court, Pence downplayed the charge that Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett would support overturning Roe v. Wade. (Barrett’s position is, in fact, pretty clear; she even signed onto a newspaper advertisement in the past calling for the decision to be overturned.)

    Instead, Pence preferred to redirect the Supreme Court question to Harris, trying to pin her down on whether she and Biden would pack the court if Barrett is confirmed and the Democrats win the White House. It’s not a bad question, actually, and the Democratic ticket has been cagey about its answer. (Harris didn’t provide one.) Court-packing would certainly be a big departure for Democrats and the Supreme Court, but does anyone really think the election is going to hinge on it? It’s a desperation play you call when the things the election actually is about are trending in the wrong direction. And perhaps the kind of argument you lean on when the decision to move forward with the nomination is as unpopular as it is.

    The best card in Pence’s hand—the one that at one point they believed made them favorites for reelection—was the economy. Pence repeatedly invoked the strength of the American economy for much of Trump’s term, and highlighted the flawed recovery out of the Great Recession (which, as Harris noted, Biden was responsible for shepherding in the Obama administration). This was a slam-dunk case at one point—an argument that fit on the proverbial bumper sticker. But it’s not 2019 anymore. The economy is a disaster, Disneyland is shut down, the airlines are in hell, most of the restaurants in my city are on the chopping block, and there’s a looming eviction crisis that Washington is doing nothing to avert. At this point, trying to brag about the economy is only reminding voters how bad things have gotten—and how much worse they’ll likely get.

    Pence was characteristically unflappable, and after watching Trump, it’s sort of surreal to see someone as relentlessly on-message and well-prepped as he was. But there just wasn’t much Pence could do on Wednesday. These are some problems even Regeneron can’t fix.

  • “They’re Coming for You”: Kamala Harris Slams Trump and Pence on Preexisting Conditions

    Jack Gruber/Pool/CNP/Zuma

    Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) took multiple opportunities during Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate to call attention to the Trump administration’s attempts to undo Obamacare and strip 23 million Americans of their health insurance.

    “If you have a preexisting condition—heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer—they’re coming for you,” Harris said. “If you love someone who has a preexisting condition, they’re coming for you. If you are under the age of 26 on your parents’ coverage, they’re coming for you.”

    President Trump has repeatedly claimed that he is going to somehow protect coverage for people with preexisting conditions while actively chipping away at the legislation that enacted those protections in the first place. He’s now supporting a lawsuit seeking to eliminate Obamacare altogether. After the election, the Supreme Court will decide whether changes that Trump’s tax law made to the Affordable Care Act invalidate the landmark health legislation in its entirety. The appointment of Amy Coney Barrett, who has criticized Obamacare in the past, could potentially tilt the Supreme Court toward the side of the Republican attorneys general who filed the Trump-backed lawsuit.

    Vice President Mike Pence replied to Harris, “President Trump and I have a plan to improve health care and protect preexisting conditions for every American.” Trump has repeatedly promised to come up with a replacement for Obamacare—but he’s never even come close.

    Watch the video below:

  • Things Sure Do Feel Dystopian These Days!

    A couple poses for a photo in front of the Golden Gate Bridge, which is obscured by wildfire smoke.Wu Xiaoling/Xinhua/Zuma

    I don’t know if it’s because I just moved to a new city, but I feel like my tether to reality is growing looser by the minute.

    The last four years felt dystopian. The last six months, doubly so. And the last week? Hoo, boy.

    Our president is infected with the deadly virus whose seriousness he has downplayed ever since the necessary shutdowns started tanking the economy on whose prosperousness his 2020 presidential campaign hinged. Now, we have no reliable source of information on Trump’s health. His untrustworthy physician claims that Trump has been “symptom-free” for 24 hours. Trump’s (by my count) more than 50 original tweets in the last 24 hours appear symptomatic of, well, something.

    Is this what it feels like to live in a democracy sliding toward authoritarianism? If Biden is elected, what will Trump’s time as a lame duck look like? Could 2021 be even worse than 2020?

    At least we can watch this video of Hamlet the mini pig going down the stairs to get oatmeal. As my colleague Molly Schwartz says, “Seeing that pig jump with unadulterated joy into that oatmeal never fails to make me smile.”

    This post was brought to you by the Mother Jones Daily newsletter, which hits inboxes every weekday and is written by Ben Dreyfuss and Abigail Weinberg, and regularly features guest contributions by our much smarter colleagues. Sign up for it here.

  • Trump Is Now Fundraising Off His COVID Lies

    Donald Trump holds his face mask in his hands on the White House balcony after he returned from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.Alex Brandon/AP

    In a fundraising email sent to supporters Tuesday morning—titled “Best I’ve felt in 20 years!”—President Trump continued to downplay the threat of the coronavirus while seeming to suggest that therapeutics alone could defeat the disease that has claimed more than 210,000 American lives.

    “Don’t be afraid of Covid,” the email says. “Don’t let it dominate your life! This is the greatest country in the world, and under the Trump Administration, we have developed some really great drugs and knowledge. WE WILL BEAT THIS, TOGETHER!”

    The email is a continuation of the president’s theatrical performance of good health, even as he appeared to gasp for breath outside the White House Monday night. There is still no vaccine or known cure for the virus, though Trump has had access to a superb level of care and experimental treatments that have been denied to most Americans who have suffered from the disease. But instead of resting and getting better, Trump promises in his email to get back to work.

    “Now, I am fired up and ready to KEEP FIGHTING FOR YOU!,” it says. “This is the FINAL STRETCH of the Election and we can’t take any days off.” Still, it is unclear what, if anything, Trump is doing to protect the virus from spreading within the White House, where countless housekeepers work in close proximity to the president. Trump’s resistance to even the most basic precautions against COVID-19 took symbolic form when the president, presumably still infectious, removed his mask while standing on a White House balcony Monday evening.

    Trump’s last official outing before announcing his COVID-19 diagnosis was a campaign fundraising event in New Jersey, where he flouted social distancing guidelines. As my colleague Russ Choma reported:

    President Donald Trump, who announced on Friday that he had tested positive for COVID-19, did not wear a mask during a Thursday afternoon campaign fundraiser at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, according to a person who was at the club. Trump mingled with the crowd of about 150 donors, at one point going table-to-table to shake hands with attendees, according to the source, who asked not to be identified. This behavior is typical for Trump when he visits the club—members often approach him to shake hands and chat. But this time, Trump may have been contagious.

    Read the full fundraising email below:

  • After Trump’s Reckless Joyride, Biden Delivers a Dose of Common Sense About the Next Debate

    Saquan Stimpson/Zuma

    One day after President Trump, sick with the coronavirus, defied social distancing guidelines and common sense by taking a ride in an SUV with his security detail to wave at his supporters, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden delivered a statement that would be unsurprising if there were anything normal about this election year.

    “Listen to the science,” he said, when asked whether he would participate in another presidential debate. “If the scientists say that that it’s safe, and that the distances are safe, then I think that’s fine. I’ll do whatever the experts say is the appropriate thing to do.”

    Watch the video:

  • “You Have Become a Symbol of Your Own Failures”: CNN’s Jake Tapper Rips Trump’s Coronavirus Response

    The days following Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis have been a microcosm of his entire approach to the virus: delay, obfuscation, and outright lies. However genuinely frightening it is to see the President of the United States be laid low by a deadly virus, it’s also maddeningly predictable. This is a president who constantly downplayed the spread of the coronavirus and mocked the idea of wearing masks as “politically correct.” To some, the image of him finally wearing a mask—as he boarded a helicopter to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center—was an inevitable result of his inability to abide by the safety guidelines his own government has promulgated.

    To others, including CNN host Jake Tapper, it was just damn infuriating.

    “The Americans who don’t listen to science or medicine, who think masks are too intrusive, who pack bars, who willfully risk spreading the virus, you are making it worse for all of us,” Tapper said in a blistering rant on CNN’s State of the Union. “You are extending how long this pandemic will last. And, it is tragic to say, many if not most of you are taking your cues from the leader of the free world.”

    Watch:

    Tapper noted that Trump chose to attend a fundraiser in New Jersey on Thursday despite having been in close contact with one of his advisers, Hope Hicks, who had just tested positive for the virus. Instead of avoiding the event, where attendees mingled indoors and mostly did not wear masks, Trump went anyway. Hours later, he announced that he and Melania Trump had tested positive. That would be the height of the scandal if not for Trump’s physician, Sean Conley, bizarrely implying in a Saturday press conference that Trump tested positive on Wednesday. (He walked those comments back shortly afterward.) If that were the case, Trump would have willfully attended an outdoor rally in Minnesota and a fundraiser—which partly took place indoors—while knowing he had the virus. That’s unfathomably reckless behavior, yet for anyone who’s watched Trump in the past five hours, it’s hardly surprising. 

    “Sick and isolated, you have become a symbol of your own failures, failures of recklessness, ignorance, arrogance—the same failures you have been inflicting on the rest of us,” Tapper concluded. “Get well, and for the rest of us who don’t get to go to Walter Reed, get well and get it together.” 

  • Trump’s Campaign: Screw What You’ve Seen With Your Own Eyes, We’ve Been Super Safe

    White House

    You don’t need me to tell you this: The Trump campaign gaslights you every day. That’s even more the case with a president holed up in hospital signing blank pieces of paper. On Sunday morning, the campaign took to TV in an attempt to wave its hands and make reality, poof, disappear.

    You’ve all seen the photos of the White House Rose Garden event last weekend, where Trump administration members and its supporters mingled maskless to celebrate the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. You’ve all seen Trump fans gleefully crammed cheek-by-jowl into rallies. And you’ve heard Trump himself deny the severity of the pandemic, including during last Tuesday’s debate: “We’ve had no negative effect,” he lied about his rallies (Herman Cain?) while mocking Biden for wearing a mask. Just one night before he announced his own diagnosis, Trump told a virtual event “the end of the pandemic is sight” after spending the afternoon in New Jersey raising money, maskless.

    But in Trump campaign land, the president and his team have been the paragon of safety. When pressed by George Stephanopoulos about lax requirements at Trump rallies on his ABC show on Sunday, campaign official Jason Miller said they have, actually, been super safe, and accused Biden of using masks as a “prop.”

    “Hasn’t the cavalier approach to masks and social distancing at these rallies been a mistake?” Stephanopoulos asked Miller. “Will it change going forward?”

    “We give everyone coming to rallies or events, we give them a mask. We check their temperature,” Miller said. “It hasn’t been cavalier at all.”

    But the attack on reality didn’t stop there. “I would say that with regard to Joe Biden, I think too often he’s used the mask as a prop,” Miller said. “He could be 20, 30 feet away from the nearest person and still have the mask on. That’s not going to change anything that’s out there.”

    In other words, to answer Stephanopoulos’s question more directly: No, nothing will change going forward.

  • Watch Trump Emerge from the White House and Fly to Hospital After Testing Positive

    Sarah Silbiger/CNP via ZUMA Wire

    President Donald Trump was airlifted to Washington D.C.’s Walter Reed Military Medical Center Friday evening on Marine One after announcing he was sick with COVID-19 just hours earlier. The president’s hospitalization marked an escalation in his medical care, at the end of a day in which White House officials downplayed the severity of his illness by projecting the image of a man still at work and in control. The White House said that his stay at Walter Reed will last several days. Earlier, the president’s doctor announced that he had received an experimental antibody drug.

    Trump emerged from the White House around 6:15pm, on foot. He waved at reporters and gave a thumbs up, before boarding the helicopter for the short twilight flight, a historic visual moment for a presidency that has staked out a denialist position on the virus since the start of the pandemic. He didn’t take questions, and he was wearing a mask. The entire trip was broadcast live by news cameras, making for a dramatic scene as Marine One flew across the D.C. sunset.

    Watch the video below:

  • I Don’t Know How You Should Feel About the News, but I Know It Pertains to You

    Everett Collection/Shutterstock

    Donald Trump has the coronavirus and as I was sitting down to write this, news broke that he is being moved to Walter Reed from the White House. I don’t really have much to add about this. It’s all so surreal. The president who downplayed the viral illness destroying his country and killing its citizens gets infected with said disease. We long ago left The West Wing territory and are now on the verge of entering Scandal territory. 

    I hope he gets better. The coronavirus is awful and I hope he makes it out okay, despite my misgivings about his presidency and him as a person. My other hope is this: I hope the supporters of his who have refused to heed the dire warnings of scientists and medical professionals worldwide are shook by this. I hope they have a “come to Jesus” moment. 

    Monika Bauerlein, our CEO, and David Corn, our Washington bureau chief, have much better thoughts that are far more interesting than that, and you should read both their posts. But I’ll ramble a bit more first.

    There’s a scene in the David Rabe play Hurlyburly (which I’m now going to describe from memory because I can’t find a free copy of the script, so these quotes are probably not 100 percent accurate) where the main character has had a total meltdown, driven mad by drugs, loneliness, and cable news. He is rambling to himself when suddenly another character shows up and the main character tries to explain his conundrum.

    “I don’t know what pertains to me and what doesn’t.”

    “Everything pertains to you, Eddie. This is all part of the flow, of which, you know, we are a part. And everything pertains to everything, one way or another.”

    “But there is death and destruction in the word! Axe murderers and plane crashes! How am I supposed to feel about that?”

    “I don’t know,” she says. “But I was just saying that they all pertain to you.”

    I’ve thought about that scene a bunch this year when we can all feel like that main character. I don’t have an answer. David Rabe didn’t either when he wrote the play. And that’s okay. There’s a famous Catholic quote that comes to mind: “I believe that the desire to please you,” the monk Thomas Merton prayed, “does in fact please you.”

    Sometimes you can’t answer something, but the fact that you want to answer it is an answer in and of itself. 

    This post was brought to you by the Mother Jones Daily newsletter, which hits inboxes every weekday and is written by Ben Dreyfuss and Abigail Weinberg, and regularly features guest contributions by our much smarter colleagues. Sign up for it here

  • Biden Makes a Direct and Heartfelt Call for Common Sense After Trump Tests Positive

    Tom Williams/ZUMA

    In his first appearance after President Donald Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden made a forceful call for unity and common sense.

    “It’s not about being a tough guy,” the former vice president said during the speech in Grand Rapids, Michigan—a Friday afternoon appearance only made possible by his own negative result. “It’s about playing your part. Wearing a mask is not only gonna protect you, but it will also protect those around you.”

    His appearance was billed as a rallying call for economic recovery—and delivered on that promise by focussing mainly on his jobs plan—but given the timing, it was also bound to be an instantly historic reaction to the day’s events. Biden took the opportunity to wish the president a speedy recovery, and as if to underscore the significance of the moment, he donned a light blue mask throughout his entire speech.

    Take a look:

  • This Is a Scandal: Trump Knew He’d Been Exposed to COVID and Went to Raise Money Anyway

    Abaca Press/AP

    He knew. Before the president went to a fundraiser Thursday in New Jersey with some 150 close donors—where, it seems, masks were less visible than gaudy shows of money—Trump knew that he potentially had the coronavirus. It just seems he didn’t care. Hope Hicks, a close aide, had already tested positive when he flew in. Trump went to raise money anyway. And in the meantime, he tried to hide from the press that Hicks even had the coronavirus at all. Like a child—like himself just a few months ago—he hoped, like magic, it would all “go away.”

    It did not.

    Late last night, we learned that Trump tested positive for the coronavirus.

    But don’t let the surprise or shock of that news allow you to miss the massive scandal here: Trump knew he could have the coronavirus, that he was in fact exposed to someone who had already been confirmed to have it, yet he still did a slew of things that could very obviously risk spreading the plague that has killed more than 200,000 Americans, all to raise some money for his reelection.

    It feels like you could say this almost every week, but really, this is arguably the biggest scandal of a presidency riddled with scandals. Because on its face, it is horrific, but is a perfect encapsulation of the administration’s entire pandemic response too.

    If you had a friend who did what Trump did, wouldn’t you be absolutely furious? If they traveled to meet you, shook your hand, or even did something like hang out in the park after someone they were in close contact with contracted COVID-19? This is heinous behavior! It’s everything we know to not do. These are the most basic of points that are hammered into us. But as the president and his allies ignore those rules, and even flout them, we all have our lives upended.

    It gets worse than just knowing Hicks was sick. Trump should have known twice over to not be traveling and seeing people. RNC chair Ronna McDaniel revealed today she tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday. She was last with Trump, according to Politico, late last week. Politico said it was not clear when she alerted the White House. Okay, maybe she didn’t tell the White House immediately despite the fact we all know by now how crucial contact tracing is. Or, she did, and then the White House still carried on business as usual? Either way, it’s a disgrace.

    And it was dangerous.

    In fact, we’ve already seen that more Republicans beyond Hicks and the Trumps are sick. Just last week, many party bigwigs got together to nominate a Supreme Court justice—close to an election, hypocritically—and a slew of Republicans hugged, kissed, and kibitzed outside sans masks.

    I am sorry to be blunt here. But, looking back, of course this happened. They’re ignoring all the rules we know help stop the spread! And now it’s causing havoc in their tiny, elite sphere. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has tested positive; the president of Notre Dame Reverend John I. Jenkins has tested positive as well. They were both in the Rose Garden. It’d be no surprise if this starts to look like a superspreader event. Recent research, highlighted by Zeynep Tufekci, has noted that the problem we have, at the moment, is that only a few of the cases overall lead to mass spreads of the virus. It’s almost like a Greek tragedy: The Trump administration’s own policies playing out in his inner circle. Because he wanted money, he wanted reelection, and he wanted power. He wanted to do whatever he wanted to do.

    But will any of this change anyone’s behavior?

    Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, took questions without a mask this morning on the lawn. So, probably not.

  • Donald Trump Has COVID-19

    President Donald Trump exits the Oval Office on October 1.Drew Angerer/Getty

    Shortly after Hope Hicks, a senior aide to Donald Trump, was reported to have tested positive for COVID-19, the president announced that he and the first lady both had tested positive as well.

    The president’s doctor released the following statement confirming the diagnosis and saying he expects Trump will “continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering.” 

     New York‘s Olivia Nuzzi sums up the situation:

    At an event earlier in the evening, Trump declared, “I just want to say that the end of the pandemic is in sight.”

    This post has been updated.

  • Will Someone Rid Biden of This Meddlesome Filibuster?

    Matt Smith/Shutterstock

    Over at New York magazine, Gabriel Debenedetti has a long article on what President Biden would do about the filibuster if Democrats take the Senate. One of the people Debenedetti spoke to is Sen. Chris Coons, who represents Delaware in a seat once held by Biden himself. He says this:

    “When we get to January 21, the day after the inauguration, there will be a simple choice Republicans and their leader will need to make. Will they be determined to keep Joe Biden from getting anything done? If that’s the case, we’ll need to make some very hard choices about how we’re going to get anything done.” But, he added, “I doubt that’s going to happen.”

    To which Jonathan Chait responds: “The actual chance that will happen is roughly in the neighborhood of 100 percent.”

    If Biden wins and the Democrats take the Senate, the question of filibuster reform will take on new urgency. “Virtually everything Democrats have sworn to do,” Ezra Klein writes, “honoring John Lewis’s legacy by strengthening the right to vote, preserving the climate for future generations by decarbonizing America, ensuring no gun is sold without a background check, raising the minimum wage, implementing universal pre-K, ending dark money in politics, guaranteeing paid family leave, offering statehood to Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico, reinvigorating unions, passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act — hinges on this question.”

    Klein’s article walks through the many arguments against abolishing the filibuster, and it’s a thorough debunking you should read in its entirety. But I found this part particularly striking. When Senators discuss whether to abolish the filibuster, they tend to talk about it in terms of how it affects their individual power, and that of their caucus. But that isn’t actually the right way to view it. Senators after all are merely an instrument of a representative democracy. We need to think about the filibuster in terms of the voters who elect them:

    “How, from a voter’s perspective, is American politics supposed to work? In theory, something like this: Parties propose agendas during elections. Voters choose the agenda — and thus the party — they like most. The newly elected party passes a substantial portion of their agenda into law. Voters judge the results and choose whether to return that party to power in the next election or give the opposition a turn at the wheel.

    This is, of course, not how American politics works. Even in the absence of the filibuster, the American political system is thick with veto points and clashing institutions. It is also deeply undemocratic, with Republicans currently holding the White House and Senate despite winning fewer votes in the relevant elections. And then, layered atop all that, is the filibuster, which imposes a 60-vote supermajority requirement.”

    Read the whole thing.

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  • Biden’s Debate Comments Just Scratched the Surface of COVID-19’s Toll on Black Americans

    Julio Cortez/AP

    During Tuesday’s night’s chaotic schoolyard brawl of a debate, moderator Chris Wallace asked both Joe Biden and President Donald Trump why the nation should trust them on issues of race. Biden opened up by leaning on the tropes of equality and decency and attacking Trump for his use of racial “dog whistle[s].” Then, he magnified the persistent, devastating truth about the coronavirus pandemic: Communities of color, particularly Black Americans, are disproportionately getting sick and dying from COVID-19.  

    “You talk about helping African Americans,” Biden said to Trump. “1 in 1,000 African Americans has been killed because of the coronavirus. If he doesn’t do something quickly, by the end of the year, 1 in 500 will have been killed. 1 in 500 African Americans. This man is as a savior of African-Americans? This man cares at all? This man’s done virtually nothing.”

    Biden made some missteps when he talked about race during the night. He painted a misleading portrait of contemporary suburban life, claiming that America’s suburbs are “by and large integrated.” He called for “law and order with justice, where people get treated fairly,” pointing to a few “bad apples” in police departments who needed to be held accountable. Still, Biden was correct about the disparate toll the pandemic has had on Black Americans. But the magnitude of the devastation in communities of color is even worse than he let on.

    As my colleague Sinduja Rangarajan and I pointed out in April, the pandemic has disproportionately afflicted Black and Latinx communities from the start. Months later, the trend has grown even more pronounced. American Public Media’s Research Lab has found that Black Americans have suffered 21 percent of the nation’s COVID-19 death toll, even though they make up 12 percent of the nation’s population. Their coronavirus death rate is nearly 98 in 100,000, more than twice that of white and Asian people. The numbers are also especially devastating for Indigenous people, Pacific Islanders, and Latinx Americans. 

    An analysis by the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies released in June found that, when adjusted for age, the disparity is even starker. Among people between the ages of 25 and 34 years old, Black Americans were seven times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white Americans. Latinx Americans in that same age category died at more than five times the rate of white Americans. The disparities worsen for people in the prime of life: Latinx and Black Americans between the ages of 35 and 44 died at eight and nine times the rate of white Americans, respectively.

    “People of color are disadvantaged with respect to whites,” Mary Bassett, the director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights and the lead author of the study paper, told me. “They’re more likely to be poor, more likely to live in a segregated community which lacks many services including access to healthy foods, more likely to live in crowded housing, more likely to work a low-wage job, less likely to have health insurance. All of these contribute both to the risk of getting COVID and the risk of dying from it.” 

    The imbalance is evident throughout the Midwest and South, two regions where Biden is vying for support while Trump’s struggles to hold onto his. An analysis by Mother Jones using data from the Atlantic‘s COVID Racial Data Tracker found that as of September, Black people are dying at alarmingly disproportionate rates not just in Republican strongholds but in battleground states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

    A disturbing trend unravels beneath all this data: Despite the fact that Black and Latinx Americans make up just 12 and 18 percent of the US population, respectively, the absolute years lost from lives cut far too short in both these communities represents a debilitating generational affliction that will be felt for some time. In her study, Bassett calculated that between February and May, COVID-19 had wiped out nearly 46,000 years of potential life among its Black victims and more than 48,000 years of life among its Latinx victims. In contrast, White Americans lost just over 33,400 years. 

    I’m reminded what Bassett told me back in June: these disparities in COVID-19 deaths are not due to biological traits or differences, but rather “because of the social consequences of race in our society, which has been reinforced by decades, centuries of bad practices and policies.” This, at least, is something the next president has some sway over. It’s one thing to spot the problem and care about it, as Biden did Tuesday night. It’s another to act on it.

  • Trump Insisting Roe Is “Not on the Ballot” May Be Part of a New Republican Trend. Groan.

    President Trump speaks during the first of three scheduled 90 minute presidential debates with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday. Kevin Dietsch/Pool/CNP via ZUMA Wire

    “It’s not on the ballot; there is nothing happening there,” blustered President Donald Trump Tuesday night during the first presidential debate of 2020. “You don’t know her view on Roe v. Wade.” 

    He’s simultaneously talking about the precarity of the right to abortion in the United States following his nomination of conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, while insisting, of course, that it’s not precarious at all. It’s fine! Everything is totally fine! 

    Just a day earlier, in Iowa, Republican Sen. Joni Ernst offered a similar assurance, that we shouldn’t worry about reproductive autonomy, insisting during a debate against her Democratic challenger that the likelihood Roe will be overturned is “very minimal.” In a way, she’s probably right—even with the addition of Barrett to the court, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Roe is overturned outright. An arguably worse or just-as-bad reality is more probable, as states will continue to offer up opportunities to chip away at the right to abortion care and the majority-conservative bench will try to maintain some semblance of precedent-respecting decorum in the process of ruling on those cases.

    This sort of evasion from Republicans seems to be new, and it is deeply patronizing at best, bold-faced lying at worst. It has a certain “don’t you worry your pretty little head” tone to it, especially since the loss of abortion rights at the federal level will, of course, primarily affect people with uteruses. But it’s also extremely contradictory coming from a man who has enjoyed calling himself “the most pro-life president” in American history and has pledged over and over again to do whatever he can to overturn Roe. In a 2016 debate against Hillary Clinton, he said that as president, he would appoint judges to the Supreme Court with the explicit goal of decimating Roe. Just on Sunday, he mused to “Fox and Friends Weekend” that it is “possible” Barrett would overturn Roe as a Supreme Court Justice. 

    While we’re not quite yet at a trend, I bet we see more of this. After all, it’s not altogether surprising that Republicans who desperately want to see Barrett confirmed to the bench, come what may in November, are waffling on this particular point now that Election Day is creeping ever closer. Both Trump and Ernst are certainly feeling the heat in their own races. And polling has consistently shown that the majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal. The most recent major poll on the subject from the Pew Research Center last year showed 61 percent of Americans continue to say that abortion should be legal in all (27 percent) or most (34 percent) cases. A major policy change on this front could mobilize Democrats in a significant way—and really, it already has to some degree—and it could spark a backlash that would cause Republicans to lose their grip on the Senate and further reduce their numbers in the House come November.

    In some ways, while odious, I at least prefer the honesty on this from someone like Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, who apparently did not get the party memo. A few hours before the presidential debate, the senator, who has in the past pledged to only support anti-Roe SCOTUS nominees, called Barrett’s judicial record “awfully clear” regarding abortion. “I think that’s one where she meets my standard of having evidence in the record, out there in public, on the record that indicates that she understands Roe was really an act of judicial imperialism and wrongly decided,” Hawley said. At least he’s consistent?

    For now, voters will have to try and not lose their grip on reality amid all the gaslighting and backpedaling to see the stakes clearly. 

  • The Simple Truth About the Debate Is That Joe Biden Won

    Last night there was a presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. It was a real circus because Trump refused to follow the rules and ranted and raved like an unmedicated lunatic. Thanks to his chaotic rampage, the conversation was hard to follow. Very few issues were debated in a way that happens in The West Wing. And the second it was over, everyone on television proclaimed it a mess. “Who was the winner? No one,” was a regular refrain. “The only thing I know is America lost,” I heard someone say on Fox. This morning, several newspapers led coverage with a bit of both-siderism.

    This is nonsense. It was clear in the debate that there was a winner, and that winner’s name is Joe Biden. Donald Trump did what Donald Trump does: He bullied and hectored and rambled and ceaselessly interrupted. Liberals don’t trust their own senses sometimes: There is a nagging suspicion that although we see a volcano erupting and feel the heat on our face as the lava flows toward us, it might not “play that way” to the other villagers around this mountain. Too many times before, we think, this volcano erupted but our screams were dismissed. And so everyone watched last night and many people thought “no one won.” But that’s not true, and it was immediately born out by polls that showed Trump had disappointed even his supporters and that Biden gained in all demographics on all issues. 

    People are very bad at guessing what other people think when they stop thinking they’re like other people. Don’t go too far with it. Don’t think everyone has your exact taste or ideology, but you can assume other people also don’t like lava. There are some who do like lava. Pyromaniacs and other lava-fetishists. But they’re not a majority. Far from it.

    And so Trump, the lava, he flows, as he does, and people panic that everyone will jump into the lava, but Trump has never been popular. His most popular is when he’s shut his mouth and let people forget that he is his irrepressible self.

    Maggie Haberman of the New York Times observed last night that Trump’s rambling was reminiscent of his daily coronavirus briefings in the spring. Absolutely! I had flashbacks to those briefings. But the interesting thing about them is they were a disaster for Trump politically. People do not like his ranting. They do not like it on a train, they do like it in the rain. Some people do! Some people go to the rallies and love it! But not many. And not enough to save him.

    I can’t stop thinking about the conventional wisdom that the debate was a “disaster.” I don’t think that’s true. Both candidates showed up and were exactly who they are. They didn’t paper themselves over in rehearsed speeches. They were there for the world to see. Is that not more informative than if Trump had taken, say, Ritalin and, for the first time in his life, kept himself in control? What would that say about the man who’d be president for four more years? Not much. There are people who watched and think “This Trump guy is for me!” And those voters should vote for him. There are also people, I suspect in far greater numbers, who did not feel that way, but instead felt, as one focus group participant told Frank Luntz, that Trump acted like “a crackhead.”

    “But polls showed Hillary won the debates against Trump too, and she still lost!” This is true! If James Comey sends a letter opening an investigation into Joe Biden, all bets will be off. 

    That doesn’t mean Biden won the election last night. Of course it doesn’t. Time moves forward and things happen and they change the course of everything. Last night doesn’t mean everyone should pop champagne and forget to vote. Nothing will or could mean that, but it does mean Biden won the debate and Trump fell further behind, squandering one of his final opportunities for a comeback. More opportunities will come, but never again as many as there were before those two walked onstage last night and showed us exactly who they are.

    This post was brought to you by the Mother Jones Daily newsletter, which hits inboxes every weekday and is written by Ben Dreyfuss and Abigail Weinberg, and regularly features guest contributions by our much smarter colleagues. Sign up for it here

  • New Podcast Episode: The Debate Gave Americans the Starkest Choice Yet. That’s a Good Thing.

    Julio Cortez/AP

    The first presidential debate of the 2020 election this was a night of headache-inducing Trumpian nihilism, as our colleague Clara Jeffery wrote last night. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was visibly trying to stay calm, focus on the camera, and speak as directly as possible to the American people—while President Donald Trump attacked, interrupted, and talked over everyone, moderator Chris Wallace included, whose 11th hour recommitment to the rules of the debate came far too late to somehow contain the wreckage.

    But, in the end, was this debate a good thing for voters? Trump’s careening performance rendered a debasing spectacle of American democracy, making the usual post-debate analysis feel practically pointless. Typically we ask: who won and who lost? But today, that question seems less relevant: This was about a stark choice, laid bare. “I understand why people wanted to rush to the shower afterwards. It was ugly. It was brutal. It was indeed debasing, but it was Trump revealing Trump,” says Washington D.C. Bureau Chief David Corn, on a new episode of the Mother Jones Podcast. And in that sense, Corn argues, “this was a great night for America.”

    Trump, in essence, proved Biden’s point, Corn argues: “It’s out in the open. He sees saying the quiet part aloud. And when a political opponent does that, it makes your work—if you’re a Democrat, if you’re someone who wants to see Trump gone—easier.” (Check out his debate-night essay here.)

    Podcast host Jamilah King also interviews DC-based reporter Nathalie Baptiste about her experience of the debate, and her main takeaways. They get into the mind-boggling  contrast between Donald Trump and Joe Biden on the debate stage, the racism embedded in the debate topics, and whether voters might have any reason at all to feel hopeful as November 3 approaches.

    Listen to their full conversations on the latest episode of the Mother Jones Podcast:

     

  • The Trump Files: Donald Has Been Inflating His Net Worth for 40 Years

    This post was originally published as part of “The Trump Files“—a collection of telling episodes, strange but true stories, and curious scenes from the life of our current president—on September 12, 2016.

    There’s seemingly nothing more important to Donald Trump than his net worth. The tycoon’s image is based on having over-the-top wealth, so he often pads his net worth by as much as billions of dollars—and sued a journalist who caught him in the act.

    In fact, Trump has been doing this ever since he first started appearing in the press as a fledgling developer. His front-page debut came in 1973, thanks to a landmark housing discrimination suit the Justice Department filed against Trump and his father for trying to bar black applicants from their buildings and offering black renters worse terms. (The Trumps settled, agreeing to take steps to combat discrimination in exchange for not having to admit any wrongdoing.) Three years later, the New York Times made him the subject of a gushing profile that sexed up the 30-year-old developer—”he looks ever so much like Robert Redford”—and parroted his claim that he was worth “more than $200 million.”

    As Washington Post reporters Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher charitably put it in their new book, Trump Revealed, the source of that figure was “unclear.” The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, which later investigated Trump when he sought a casino license, found that Trump’s income in 1976 was a grand total of “$24,594, in addition to some payments from family trusts and other assets,” as Kranish and Fisher wrote. A year earlier, while Trump was trying to buy the Commodore Hotel from the bankrupt Penn Central railroad, “Penn Central negotiators had estimated the Trump family holdings at about $25 million, all of it under [his father] Fred’s control,” Kranish and Fisher wrote.

    Trump did finally make it to the big time in 1982, when he was featured in Forbes‘ list of the 400 richest Americans. Forbes‘ estimate of his worth? $100 million.

  • Who Had Substantive Climate Discussion on Their Debate Bingo Card?

    Paul Kitagaki Jr./ZUMA

    Who expected a fairly substantive climate discussion in the first presidential debate, moderated by none other than a Fox News anchor? 

    President Donald Trump too did not seem prepared. Asked point blank whether he believes in man-made climate change, Trump equivocated, glossing over a record where he in fact has insisted it’s a hoax.

    “I think a lot of things do” contribute to climate change, he said. “But I think to an extent, yes. I think to an extent, yes.”

    Trump then immediately pivoted to a topic he’s more comfortable with, but way off on: forest fire management. Trump also insisted “we have to do everything we can to have immaculate water and do everything else we can to plant a billion trees.” This is a dodge. Despite Trump claiming he’s helped clean the air and water, his point doesn’t stand up to facts. More Americans now live in counties with unhealthier air than when Trump took office. The disparity is even starker in communities of color. 

    Joe Biden, meanwhile, reiterated the points of his climate platform, such as weatherizing 4 million buildings and installing 100,000 new charging stations. 

    Climate change wasn’t on the pre-debate list of topics for Fox News’ Chris Wallace, so the fact that it was a focus of first debate shows how far it’s climbed as a substantive issue for the electorate. It also drives home how vulnerable the president remains on the issue. Recent polling by Climate Power 2020 shows battleground voters prefer Biden’s stance by a whopping 27 points.

  • This Was Maybe the Most Revealing Moment From Tonight’s Debate