Fork in the Road: Where Will the GOP Turn?

At last, we’ve reached the reckoning. Not long ago, it appeared that the Republican Party would press ahead under the Donald Trump banner even after he left office. Then this week hit with two stunning Senate losses in Georgia for the GOP, followed by a Trump rally that erupted into a riot as the president’s supporters stormed the Capitol in a bid to overturn a democratic election. They failed, but five people, including a police officer, died as a result. With the GOP facing complete Democratic control of Washington for the first time in a decade and many Trump administration figures jumping ship as fast as they can, the question has become more urgent: Where does the party go from here? Does it splinter or evolve into something else? In this Sunday Magazine, we pick the brains of everyone from OZY readers to leading Republicans.

The Ever Trumpers

Rise of the Literalists. The Republican mantra toward Trump has long been to take him “seriously, but not literally” while explaining away the worst of his autocratic tendencies as “folksy exaggeration,” as Ezra Klein writes for the New York Times. But in Trump’s Wednesday revolt, we saw the consequences of millions taking the president at his word. Former Georgia Republican Rep. Jack Kingston, who has been a Trump defender, tells OZY that constant and often hysterical attacks from institutions and the media (claiming Trump is a Russian asset, for example) helped radicalize the crowd. While “the mob overplayed their hand, you can’t ignore them any more than you can ignore Black Lives Matter and the angst behind it,” Kingston says.

The “Say Anythings.” The Republican Party prides itself as the Party of Lincoln. But a major part of Abraham Lincoln’s rise was his victory over the Know Nothings, a Tea Party-like grassroots movement that opposed a diversifying nation and elites whom they felt created a rigged system. A modern iteration is forming around a group of what could be called “Say Anythings,” populists in the mold of Trump who will support even the most baseless of allegations under the guise of simply reflecting the views of the average American. Sen. Josh Hawley embodied this by arguing it was his duty to baselessly challenge the election results simply because many of his Missouri constituents believed fraud happened. Read more about the Know Nothings on OZY.

The Tucker Party. Fox News host Tucker Carlson, whose fears of change include a dystopian Starbucks-drinking future, is the chief figurehead of the Say Anything style. On Wednesday, he blamed the Trump revolt on elites: “It is not your fault,” he told his viewers. “It is their fault.” Several OZY readers agreed, with lifelong Republican Kim C. writing that blame lies with “politicians from both sides who have done nothing for Americans for the past 20 years … while the rest of us have suffered.” If Carlson runs in 2024, he would be an instant frontrunner given his anti-establishment zeal and platform on the most popular cable news show by far. 

Trigger Happy. There is another theory of Republicanism born from the social media age, of an ideology-free party formed around one uniting principle: owning the libs. People like Candace Owens and Dan Bongino channel immense influence despite little philosophical consistency because of their propensity for viral attack lines. Then there’s Donald Trump Jr., who is beloved by the base for his cynical ferocity. His best-selling book is literally called Triggered, and if Trump Jr. wants it, the Republican race to replace his father is tantalizingly winnable — that is, if his dad doesn’t rip the rug out from underneath him. Read more About Candace Owens on OZY.

Mind the Media. Longtime Republican pollster Whit Ayres separates the party into the “populist wing” and the “governing wing.” Ayres tells OZY he has “yet to see significant evidence” that Trump’s populist support was damaged by the insurrection, while the governing wing was appalled and further targeted for breaking with the president. What divides the groups? Often media consumption. The people who are lapping up lies from Fox News opinion hosts, Facebook, Newsmax and OANN about how the election was stolen and antifa was behind the Capitol storming — those folks are going to continue to stick with Trump or his chosen successor. The question now becomes what Trump’s post-election platform looks like: How much will TV cover him? How much will being blocked from Twitter dampen his reach? How much will his legal defenses dominate his attention? 

Republicans Hold Virtual 2020 National Convention

Nikki Haley

Source Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The Reformers

Back to the Future. Among top GOP figures, the dance away from Trump is well under way, often with a pre-Trump vision. Take former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who told party leaders at the Republican National Committee winter meeting on Thursday that Trump’s post-election actions will be “judged harshly by history,” but the party shouldn’t shy away from celebrating Trump wins like installing three conservative Supreme Court justices and brokering a warming between Israel and the Arab world. According to excerpts of the closed-door speech obtained by OZY, the 48-year-old daughter of Indian immigrants and possible 2024 presidential contender had her anti-socialism lines ready, and planted her culture war flag with “America is not a racist country.” And she urged the party not to “abandon” its long-held principles at a low moment. (Even still, RNC committee members largely dismissed the notion that Trump had any role in the violence and his handpicked leader, Ronna McDaniel, was unanimously re-elected.)

Aspiring to Be Aspirational. Haley’s fellow South Carolinian Sen. Tim Scott, 55, promotes anti-poverty measures, has challenged Trump on race as the Senate’s only Black Republican and gave a well-received speech at last summer’s Republican National Convention. Scott, who’s also in the 2024 mix, is “a potential superstar,” in former congressman Kingston’s estimation. Ayres points to Sen. Marco Rubio’s speech at Catholic University outlining a kind of common-good capitalism. It’s a way to translate conservative values to those left behind by the economy who might be inclined to support a Trump-style populist — or Democrats.

Unlikely Pathbreaker. Mark Robinson has an aspirational story of his own: He was a nonpolitical factory worker just two years ago and is now the first Black lieutenant governor of North Carolina after winning his November election. The 52-year-old advocates for renewing a spirit of “standing up to empower people,” as he puts it: “Our party is about giving – conserving people’s rights and helping people rise up past their current situation.” While there was a 2020 shift among Black, Asian and (particularly) Hispanic voters toward the GOP, Fordham University professor and OZY editor-at-large Christina Greer points out that this argument can repulse those voters as well: “This bootstraps philosophy often works when there is a racialized element saying others aren’t pulling themselves up and are instead looking for handouts.”  Read more about Robinson on OZY.

Racial Reckoning. But courting more working class voters of color will require a more forceful break with the party’s white supremacist fringe — often stoked by Trump, who declared that there were some “very fine people” at the Charlottesville, Virginia, “Unite the Right” rally and told the Capitol stormers, “I love you.” The party’s wild claims of fraud that always seemed to focus on majority-Black cities like Atlanta could have helped spur record Black turnout against Republicans in the Georgia runoffs. 

The Dealmakers. In a 50-50 U.S. Senate, those who work across the aisle will matter most. Ron Christie, a former adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, points out that “so much of Trumpism has been a repudiation of the moderates, those who are willing to cut deals with the Democrats.” On the latest episode of When Katty Met Carlos, Christie tells OZY’s co-founder and CEO Carlos Watson and the BBC’s Katty Kay that moderates like Sens. Mitt Romney and Susan Collins take on new importance with Trump out of the picture. Another to watch: Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who threatened to leave the GOP altogether if it doesn’t quit Trump. Listen now.

A Middle Way. A slew of moderate Republican governors whose day job is forging consensus could also remake the party in their image. Take Larry Hogan of Maryland, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Chris Sununu of New Hampshire. A dark horse favorite? Vermont’s Phil Scott, who has pioneered health care reform in Bernie’s state and said Trump was unfit for office after the Ukraine scandal, was the first Republican governor to call for his ouster after Wednesday’s attack.. The likeable stock car racer could do for the GOP what that other famous Vermonter, Howard Dean, did for the Democrats in modernizing the party. 

A Center-Left Conservatism. One Georgia conservative lamented to me that the Republican Party may morph into a left-of-center group to capture enough votes to stay relevant. Lance A., a reader from New Mexico, says the stain of the GOP’s allegiance to Trump can only be rectified by a “run, not walk, to the left.” Ironically, it may be Ivanka Trump who embodies this, a former Democrat who throughout her short time in politics — and, most recently, while stumping in Georgia — has branded herself as an aspirational conservative while also advocating for policies like paid family leave. 

Ban It All Down. There’s also a growing movement saying those who aided and abetted Trump’s war on the election results should be blacklisted. These aren’t just holier-than-thou liberals, but people like star National Review conservative Kevin Williamson, who on Tuesday wrote: “No one who has participated in this poisonous buffoonery should ever hold office again.” Trump staffers are certainly worried that will be the case: Even as the U.S. Capitol was ransacked, White House employees were fretting that the insurrection would damage their Beltway résumés

More Billionaire Businessmen? Jerry Kraemer, a 70-year-old Kentuckian who worked in the trucking industry, has voted Republican since he was 18 but felt betrayed by the way Trump enriched his friends and added to the national debt with tax cuts and big industry bailouts during COVID-19. He ended up pulling the lever for Trump, but he now says he wouldn’t have if he had known Trump would contest the results. The Republican Party “does not have a viable leader,” Kraemer says, seeing no hope in the young crop. Instead he says Republicans should draft a business leader again … just this time a better, more honest, one. “I could see somebody like Mark Cuban,” he says. Watch Cuban on ‘The Carlos Watson Show.’

Man holding American flag on field in remote landscape

The Policy Conundrum

Putting People First. Populism need not be a curse word, although it’s become one (smart Democrats realize that the nectar that draws MAGA bees also makes the honey that fuels Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders). That is, the communal zeal these days is not love for party but hate for elites. Whichever party first discovers the secret to passing legislation that meaningfully affects people in their daily lives will dominate. That means listening to voters when they say “we need this.” Consider how the promise of $2,000 stimulus checks may have played a role in the closing days of the Georgia Senate races. 

What That Looks Like. For conservatives, that may mean an “America First” foreign policy that forces other democracies to pick up the tab sometimes, coupled with a tougher trade stance against China. Or a little less Wall Street and a little more Main Street. “Could somebody give incoming legislators a primer on how consumer-based economies function?” reader Barb R. asks. “When most people are barely subsisting, they cannot buy consumer goods. Our economy will never stabilize as long as we are focused on creating wealth rather than well paying jobs.” Read more on OZY.

The Pro-Labor Conservatives. Perhaps the most creative person advocating a way forward for conservative economics is Oren Cass, the former Romney advisor and executive director of the think tank American Compass. His scholarship critically analyzes everything from elite fetishization of GDP to the assumption that free markets lead to positive outcomes for American workers. Conservative economics, he writes, must accord equal respect to capital and labor, rather than pseudo-factually assume that “whatever is best for shareholders in the short run will eventually prove best for workers as well.” Centered around ideals of a more family-focused economy, Cass advocates for a new way of measuring economic success, a “cost-thriving index” that asks: “Does this wage cover a middle-class family’s needs?”

Environmental Trendsetters. “A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling stop,” William F. Buckley famously wrote. But to protect tradition, societies must change in response to new threats and opportunities. Republicans like former Congressman Bob Inglis and Indiana mayor Jim Brainard have begged for adoption of thoughtful, conservative climate policy, and the party can’t afford to opt out anymore with conservatives leading climate-conscious states like Iowa and Florida. There is clear bipartisan appeal that I saw firsthand while traveling to every state in 2017, from Trump-voting Nebraska farmers erecting solar panels in their corn fields to anti-eminent domain Georgians rallying against a pipeline project. And yet, Trump administration efforts to roll back environmental regulations have had near-unanimous GOP backing — including a last-ditch but largely unsuccessful move to open up Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drillers.

Reviving Rural America. Young people in rural economies face a terrible choice: Head to the big city for career opportunities or stay in the homes their families have long invested in. But it doesn’t have to be that way. While highways once connected people to jobs, high speed broadband will form the bridges of the future. Self-driving cars will allow exurban and rural workers to commute while they sleep. The GOP can take a leading role in reforming economic and urban policies to aid their base, but it may require shrugging off monopolies like the cable industry

a new start 

Time for a Reset. There may be a real opportunity: As reader Ted H. notes, the Republican Party once before rejected a beloved populist ex-president. Theodore Roosevelt, who went on to form the independent Bull Moose Party, bested Republican incumbent William Howard Taft but lost to Democrat Woodrow Wilson in 1912. “If the Republican Party can divorce itself from Trumpism or at least from Trump, it can be revived,” he writes. As Kathy F. adds, the United States may be ready for a party of moderates “to incorporate folks from both parties who are fed up with the concept of Party, and not policy and people.” 

Who could lead it? Rep. Justin Amash thrilled third-party seekers by leaving the Republican Party in 2019 but disappointed by not building enough momentum to run for higher office — although he did call constitutionalists, libertarians and classical liberals to form a new party on Thursday. Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich signaled his third-way politics by speaking at the Democratic National Convention in July, and has been staking ground for a post-Trump party for a while now. You also can’t count out a third party emerging from the right to back Trump against GOP elites, as some Trump supporters have proposed. Watch Kasich on The Carlos Watson Show Special: “Real Talk Real Change”

trump-brazil

what’s next for the overseas trumps?

Forbidden Love: For years, Europe’s far right has courted Trump and basked in his support. But after Wednesday’s mob attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters, they’ve been scrambling to distance themselves. Leaders from Nigel Farage, leader of Reform U.K. — formerly known as the Brexit Party — to Marine Le Pen of France’s National Rally Party to Dutch far-right nationalist Geert Wilders denounced the violence in strong terms. Many of these leaders and parties share political positions with Trump, but they’re mostly on the fringes of mainstream politics in countries with strong democratic institutions. They, at the very least, need sheep’s clothing — and after Wednesday, Trump threatens to leave them naked.

Time to Say Goodbye: Trump was a very useful ally to them while in power. Without the presidency, he’s a millstone around their neck. Three of Trump’s most important global friends — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, India’s Narendra Modi and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu — were uncharacteristically quick to issue statements of condemnation and call for a peaceful transfer of power. Trump’s positions were useful for Johnson’s Brexit campaign, his lack of concern for human rights worked for Modi and his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal pleased Netanyahu. But this trio will need to work with the incoming Biden administration, and they lead old conservative political parties with strong bases that never depended on Trump.  

The Fence Sitters: Like Johnson, Modi and Netanyahu, this set of leaders is in power. But unlike them, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán pitch themselves as mavericks, happy to make provocative statements and act on them, especially when it comes to curbing human rights and civil liberties. The expansion of Trumpian politics globally assists them, and it’s not impossible to see them asking supporters to mimic what happened on Wednesday, should they feel the need. But they’re both firmly entrenched in power with little meaningful opposition. They have little incentive to publicly support Trump now. So they’ve chosen the next best route — silence. 

The Last Stand: One influential world leader remains resilient to the changing winds: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Asked about the violence at the Capitol, Bolsonaro said: “You know I’m connected to Trump, right? So you already know my answer.” Then he went on to repeat Trump’s unproven allegations of voter fraud. While Bolsonaro too has seen a rise in popularity in recent months, his ratings are nowhere near AMLO’s or Orbán’s. More importantly, he has modeled himself on Trump, with wild voter fraud claims in his own country. And as an OZY deep-dive revealed recently, Bolsonaro’s family and supporters are believed to have orchestrated a social media misinformation campaign in the U.S. during the presidential elections to dispute results. Experts believe it might have been a dry run for 2022, when Bolsonaro might need similar tactics for his reelection campaign. Read more on OZY.

A People Without a Party

They tried to tell the Democratic Party. Hell, they tried to tell me.

The Black reverend in Chicago who, between cigar puffs, lamented the failed promise of Obama: “We did not benefit from him being president.” The Vietnamese Texan, who felt Democrats didn’t see Asians like him and was leaning toward not voting: “When they say diversity … it seems like they have a preference.” The Somali refugee, who organized for Democrats in Ohio for nearly two decades before being blackballed when he tried to run for office himself: “They don’t see me as African American. They see me as an immigrant.”

They are people of color all across America, every state of which I have visited in the four years since Trump was elected in an effort to better understand this vast and disparate country. And they are increasingly a people without a party, in the wake of a presidential election that once again will elect a candidate who relies on their votes yet fails to heed their needs.

That may seem too harsh. But as Joe Biden seems poised to win the White House — with slight margins built on the backs of millions of dedicated Democratic voters in majority-minority cities like Milwaukee, Detroit and Philadelphia — there are numerous warning signs that the Democratic coalition of color is at risk of crumbling.

Candidates always say they will do this or do that. And nothing ever happens.

JeQuan Mayo, 20, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

Democrats lost two key states as Hispanics flocked to Trump in South Florida and in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, where Biden severely underperformed — winning by just 5 percentage points in Starr, a 95 percent Latino county that Hillary Clinton won by 60 points four years ago. And after preelection polls suggested a shift as Trump aggressively courted Black voters, preliminary Edison Research exit polls found that 12 percent supported him, up from 8 percent four years ago. Taking nearly a third of Asian and Latino voters, the exit polls suggest Trump won a quarter of non-white voters which, if accurate, would be the highest percentage for any Republican since Richard Nixon in 1960.

The result? Despite cutting into Trump’s margin with white voters, Biden is poised to limp into the presidency without a Senate majority and losing seats in the House of Representatives. That likely scuttles hopes for an aggressive legislative agenda on climate change, health care or economic justice. And a lack of meaningful progress will continue to push already skeptical voters of color away, perhaps not to the Republican Party, given its own problems on race. But many could be sent into a sort of political homelessness, one marked by doubt that civic life can change their lives for the better.

“I kind of look at it the same way, no matter who the candidate is,” says JeQuan Mayo, a Black 20-year-old from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. “I don’t feel like anything is going to change. At this point, there aren’t any issues that I care about — because candidates always say they will do this or do that. And nothing ever happens.”

***

Ahead of Biden’s underwhelming performance, numerous Democrats of color warned me that the party was taking their vote for granted despite high-minded rhetoric. Emilia Sykes, the Ohio House Minority Leader, was worried it would lead to low turnout: Indeed, Cuyahoga County, home to Cleveland and the state’s biggest minority voter base, somehow saw lower turnout (54 percent) and 10,000 fewer voters than in 2016, even as the nation set records for voter participation. “We didn’t have the capacity or resources because they’re giving them all to the white women groups to have wine parties,” she said before the election. 

That was the case in many states, despite Biden sporting a huge fundraising advantage with nearly half a billion dollars on hand in the final weeks. Democrats invested “a billion dollars that was spent talking to white persuadable voters and less than $24 million talking to Latinos for outside orgs,” as Arizona Latino organizer Chuck Rocha told The Intercept. It’s not like the Biden campaign wasn’t warned: The Biden campaign “needs, and has needed for several months, a tremendous amount of improvement,” Moe Vela, a former White House senior adviser to Biden, told me in July as poll after poll showed that Biden was leaking Latinos.

But those weren’t the only obvious constituencies that the Biden campaign glossed over. In Maine, the Sara Gideon campaign and state Democrats wouldn’t — or, maybe couldn’t, despite multiple requests — put me in touch with staff organizing Somali voters, a small but growing political force with many anti-Trump members due to his immigration policies. “When it comes to engaging with our issues, we don’t see it in a meaningful way,” said Fatuma Hussein, a Somali nonprofit leader in Lewiston. In Robeson County, North Carolina, where Native Americans are a majority of voters, Trump beat Biden 69 to 31 percent — after Obama beat Romney in those same precincts 59 to 39 percent in 2012. One likely reason? Trump showed up, campaigning in Lumberton in October and pledging his support for full federal recognition for the Lumbee Tribe. (Biden holds the same position, but didn’t campaign in Lumberton himself.)

While the Biden campaign and Senate hopefuls splashed record sums on TV advertising, meaningful outreach programs to voters of color were often ignored or underfunded by Democrats. Trump, meanwhile, spent years microtargeting Venezuelan and Cuban voters in the Miami area with ads tailored to their experience.

The fact that voters of color were not mobilized properly is especially shocking, given the way the Black Lives Matter protests following George Floyd’s death dominated liberal activism this summer. Many expected a massive turnout from minority Democrats in light of their message that Trump was fanning the flames of racism.

But voters of color, like most Americans, prioritize fairness, not sound bites. Too many times, protesters asked for police accountability and got Instagram blackout campaigns. At marches, it was striking how many more white protesters were causing destruction, leading chants like “All cops are bastards” or calling to Defund the Police … claiming to speak for Black Americans when 81 percent of Black Americans say they want more or the same amount of police presence in their neighborhoods, not less (although they do want better policing). Poll after poll shows that Black and Hispanic Democrats are more moderate than their white counterparts on a host of issues, from social ones like abortion to policy ones like single-payer health care. The elevation of people like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez led some Latinos, like Alex Otaola, to leave the party. “AOC’s attacks of populist hysteria convinced me that the Democrats were not my place,” the Cuban YouTube star told me, as he helped organize thousands of Latinos in South Florida for Trump. 

In a year where countless white Democrats started book clubs around White Fragility, exit polls estimate Biden made gains only with white men — while Trump added support from white women and minority voters across the board. As 2016 showed the Democratic Party to be increasingly divorced from its blue-collar base, the demographic data of 2020 may reveal it to be whiter, richer and more liberal than in the past. It creates distance from the minority experience, as well as threatening their chances in future elections. 

Biden, given his history with the 1994 crime bill and propensity for saying things like “You ain’t Black” if you don’t support him, was a particularly hard sell to some Black voters. And throughout the campaign, Biden struggled to articulate a message that clearly demonstrated how Democrats would change people of color’s lives for the better. Even as some progressives begged Biden to talk about pocketbook issues amid an economic crisis and pandemic — things like eviction halts, COVID relief, a living wage and health care — Biden instead focused on a “Soul of the Nation” campaign that served almost entirely as a referendum on Trump.

In the end, that referendum was enough for Biden to defeat Trump, however slightly. But if he wants to make sure voters of color don’t become a people without a party, his presidency will have to be about passing legislation and signing executive orders that meaningfully address the challenges in their lives. And it will have to start immediately.

What to Expect From the Election Turbulence to Come

What a night. The presidential race has gone down to the wire, and while some clarity is starting to emerge, significant numbers of votes are still expected to be counted in key states that will determine whether President Donald Trump or Joe Biden wins the White House. No matter what happens, the nation has already been shaken by a stunningly close election, one that calls into question what, exactly, America stands for. We explore the election landscape, preview Trump’s plans to contest the results in the courts, the emerging trends and the people to watch. So pop a Diet Coke or make another pot of coffee, because we aren’t done yet. 

State of Play

Who Cares? Everyone. Trump can draw a crowd. With total turnout projected around 160 million, the 2020 election set a record for total ballots cast in a presidential race. A projected 66.8 percent of eligible citizens turned out, which would be the highest participation since 1900 — before women had the right to vote. This was powered by some 100 million early votes, which buoyed Democrats’ hopes of a landslide — but Republicans were able to get enough of their voters into the booth too.

Time to Freak Out. Like 2018, the early part of Tuesday evening saw Democratic panic. “Democrats, put the razor blades and the Ambien back in the cabinet. We’re doing fine,” Democratic strategist and quipmaster James Carville told MSNBC viewers last night. Substantial losses in Florida, Ohio and Texas extinguished hopes of a landslide that MSNBC viewers might have been expecting, but the race proved incredibly close in Georgia and North Carolina — which remain uncalled as of this writing — and AP called Biden to flip Arizona (though that result remains in some doubt). Close readers of OZY’s newsletters might have seen this scenario coming: Trump holds on to most of the Sun Belt while the Rust Belt takes its sweet time to count mail-in votes. And Trump also signaled in advance he was going to declare premature victory, as he did in his post-2 a.m. press conference.

Who’s the Sh*thole Now? Three countries have held national elections over the past week. In each, the opposition has accused the ruling administration of trying to manipulate the electoral process. The incumbent president has claimed victory with slim evidence. The threat of civil unrest is real. You know one of these nations: the U.S. The other two? Tanzania and Ivory Coast, which belong to a set of nations in Africa that President Donald Trump in 2018 reportedly referred to as “sh*thole” countries. But America’s wounds could return to haunt younger democracies around the world. For all its myriad flaws, the U.S. has overseen peaceful transfers of power for longer than any other nation, its institutions and constitutions inspiring leaders from Mexico to the Philippines, and India to China. If America loses that halo, so does global democracy. Read more on OZY.

Philly: Mailing It In. The key to Pennsylvania Democrats winning has long been running up the margins in Philadelphia and, to a lesser extent, Pittsburgh and smaller urban areas — and then holding on for dear life in the rural parts of the state. Now the nation holds on with them, except in reverse, as the hundreds of thousands of mail ballots trickling in from Philadelphia and elsewhere is cutting into Trump’s 650,000-vote lead based on Election Day turnout. Will there be enough in the bank for a Biden comeback? It’s unclear so far, but early returns are promising for Biden. The count is expected to take days.

Wobbling Toward the Dems. When Trump took the stage in the wee hours, he was ahead in Michigan and Wisconsin. Several hours later, he wasn’t, as mail-in votes — which the states were barred from counting in advance — were tallied in Democratic strongholds Detroit and Milwaukee, among other places. Networks called Michigan for Biden by early evening Wednesday, and the former vice president also was on track to win Wisconsin. Trump earlier called the legitimate counting of ballots “VERY STRANGE” on Twitter and claimed that his lead “magically” disappeared. Sure, the “red mirage” sounds mysterious, but magic it is not.

Nebulous Nevada. Nevada got extremely close overnight, with Biden leading by close to 8,000 votes with most votes tallied. And the state’s election division announced at 6 a.m. ET that no more results would be released until 11 a.m. ET on Thursday. That is because the only votes that remain are mail ballots received on Election Day, mostly in Democrat-rich Clark County, which will take time to process. That makeup would likely suggest that Biden will hold on to his slight lead, given his overall advantage with mail votes. However, Nevada also has reportedly had as many as 3,600 mail-in ballots waiting for a “signature cure” — having a voter verify their signature in cases where it’s missing or doesn’t match official records — as of Tuesday morning. Those votes haven’t been counted yet and, if fixed within seven days according to Nevada law, could likely add a buffer for Biden — but expect the Trump campaign to challenge their validity in court. 

Arizona Airs It Out. By early Wednesday, Biden still had about a 3.5 percent lead in Arizona with the remaining expected vote to consist mostly of absentee ballots in Maricopa County that arrived later on Election Day. That would seem to favor Democrats down the line, with Biden performing well in the state’s most populous center. But some results have suggested that Republicans were sending their mail in later, which may make it more of a split final bucket of votes. Both the Associated Press and Fox News called Arizona for Biden as of midnight, but the Trump campaign still saw a path to victory there, as well as Nevada, Wednesday morning.

The Too-Close-to-Calls. In Georgia, the bulk of the vote left is in two blue Atlanta area counties, and Democrats were hopeful that Biden could close a gap of 100,000 votes. North Carolina is a longer shot — Biden would have to win a huge majority of the remaining mail ballots — but the state is allowed to accept ballots postmarked by Election Day until Nov. 12, so postal delays could play a role here. Forecasters have refused to call either race.

A Time to Judge

Across The U.S. Voters Flock To The Polls On Election Day

A worker at the Miami-Dade County Elections Department works on tabulating the Vote by Mail ballots that have been returned on November 3 in Doral, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The Suits to Come. Before polls even closed Tuesday, a GOP congressional candidate in Pennsylvania sued in federal court in Montgomery County over officials’ decisions to let voters correct their mail ballots if they have obvious deficiencies, asking the court to throw out the “cured” ballots. And before 11 p.m., Pennsylvania Republicans, including Rep. Mike Kelly — who campaigned with Trump in Erie on Oct. 20, telling rallygoers to “absolutely refuse to lose” — sued Democrat Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, arguing that voters whose mail-in ballots were rejected should not be allowed to cast provisional ballots. At polling places in Philly on Tuesday, we witnessed a lot of confusion among activists and voters over provisional ballots, and whether people could “spoil” — as in, willfully discard — their mail ballots in order to vote in person on Election Day. As Trump vowed to take the election to the Supreme Court (skipping a couple of required lower-court steps), his campaign filed another lawsuit in Michigan to stop the count until they could have better access. 

Spotty Track Record. Despite Trump’s claims, nobody is finding any ballots: They are counting legitimate votes as they arrive. It was by Republican design, particularly in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, that election managers weren’t allowed to start tallying mail votes until Election Day … ensuring there would be delays. Regardless, the Trump campaign hasn’t been very successful in its legal maneuvers so far. It notably lost its challenge in Harris County, Texas, which sought to invalidate more than 100,000 votes in the Houston area. As Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro noted, the Trump team is at best 0-6 on lawsuits filed in the Keystone State. Which is likely, in part, why Trump is already saying he’ll go straight to the highest court in the land, where he has nominated three of the six judges in the Republican majority.

The Litigious President. Since before his Art of the Deal days, Trump has made litigation a clear part of his business — and, now, political — playbook. Before the 2016 election, USA Today found that Trump and his businesses had launched at least 3,500 legal actions in federal and state courts in the previous three decades, an unprecedented number for a nominee, “from skirmishes with casino patrons to million-dollar real estate suits to personal defamation lawsuits.” His love affair with lawsuits was well-documented in this Politico piece, quoting Trump biographer Tim O’Brien: “He’s used litigation historically to keep hostile forces at bay and to delay reckonings.” Going into Election Day, there had already been at least 320 election-related lawsuits filed across the country, according to tracking done by the Election Law Blog. Many of them were launched by the Trump campaign and Republican officials.

The Trends Going Forward

Coronavirus Pandemic 2020 Presidential Election Nevada

Latinx supporters attend a Biden/Harris Nevada Hispanic Legislative Caucus and supporters on horseback rally at the Walnut Community Center’s early voting location in Las Vegas on October 24. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Senate Looks Red. With Democrat Sara Gideon conceding the race to Maine Sen. Susan Collins on Wednesday, Republicans almost certainly will hold their Senate majority. That would likely stymie most any legislation from a possible President Biden, not to mention judicial nominees. With Democrats on track to hold the House, albeit by a smaller margin, legislative gridlock will continue to reign supreme — regardless of who’s president. 

Pollsters Plunge. The Senate result was another black eye for pollsters. Ahead of Tuesday, the prognosticators from OZY/0ptimus to FiveThirtyEight to The Economist were unanimous: Biden had somewhere between an 85-95 percent chance of winning, and the Democrats were nearly as likely to take the Senate. Just like in 2016, the predictors were foiled by bad misses in polling in states like Florida and Ohio. While a few outlier pollsters called a better GOP night and talked up the “shy” Trump voter, the mainstream in the polling world pointed toward a comfortable Biden win, if not a landslide. That didn’t happen, and another reckoning will be coming.

The Media Preaches Caution. If you made a drinking game out of CNN’s John King saying “yes, but…,” you would have been more sloshed than a Florida Democrat last night. Across the networks, most news networks were extra careful about calling states (particularly Florida, which Decision Desk HQ and other online outlets called by 8 p.m. but saw the cable three of Fox News, CNN and MSNBC hold out until later in the night). They seemed to take heed of the warnings made by data experts — including some of the aforementioned pollsters — that patience was key given the vagaries of how quickly mail ballots would be voted, and in some states, whether the early vote or Election Day vote would come out first. Even Wednesday morning, after Wisconsin state officials said virtually all ballots had been counted, with Biden ahead by 20,000 votes, networks were hesitant to call it, ahead of a Trump-requested recount. Going forward, a more cautious broadcast media would certainly be a welcome change.

Demographics Are Far From Destiny. Democrats have long believed that if they could just get higher turnout from Black and Latino voters, they would be unstoppable. But in a national election that set records for participation, that so-called demographic destiny was halted. Particularly due to defections from Hispanic voters in places like South Florida and the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, which Biden won with significantly lower margins than Clinton in 2016 and Obama in 2012. The former vice president has been leaking Latinos for a while, and in September we wrote about how Cubans, including one Obama-turned-Trump YouTuber, were driving massive turnout in Miami-Dade County, which was key to Trump’s Florida victory. While exact numbers still need to be determined, it’s likely that Trump approached Hispanic levels of support close to those seen by George W. Bush, who won some 40 percent of their vote in 2004. 

QAnon Caucus. As expected, Marjorie Taylor Greene won her beet-red Georgia congressional district despite her past expressions of support for the ridiculous QAnon conspiracy theory alleging that Democrats and world leaders are Satan-worshipping pedophiles. Lauren Boebert also won her congressional race in Colorado after having said “Everything I’ve heard of Q I hope that this is real” but more recently distancing herself from it. None of the other Q-curious candidates appear to have won, but this viewpoint has clearly seeped into a not-insignificant portion of the GOP base. At a polling place in rural North Carolina on Tuesday, Frank Agnello, 77, casually dropped a Q reference when talking to a reporter. “I hope [Trump] gets back in and gets the Democrats out of office,” he said. “They’re nothing but a bunch of Satan worshippers.”

New Names to Know

Florida Politics

Maria Elvira Salazar, Republican candidate for Floridas 27th Congressional District, talks with voters at a Miami-Dade County housing facility on Election Day 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Mark Robinson. The first Black lieutenant governor of North Carolina is a 52-year-old first-time candidate who just two years ago was a factory worker seeking a bachelor’s degree in history. Then he became a viral internet sensation by giving an impassioned speech at a Greensboro City Council meeting in support of the Second Amendment, declaring “I am the majority!” On Tuesday night, he won a majority — with his opponent, Democratic state Rep. Yvonne Holley, conceding the race.

Mark Kelly. The former astronaut, who once spent 54 days in space, helped Democrats reach new horizons in aiding Biden’s presidential victory in Arizona, which had only voted blue once in a presidential election since 1948. He won his Senate seat over Martha McSally by around 5 percentage points, a rare win amid surprising losses for Democratic Senate candidates such as Theresa Greenfield in Iowa and Cal Cunningham in North Carolina.

Maria Elvira Salazar. The former Telemundo anchor is well-known to her Miami area district — both from TV screens and a spirited 2018 congressional race covered by OZY — and her second try was the charm against Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala. Salazar’s win Tuesday night was part of an overall trend of success for Republicans among Latino-dominated South Florida: Trump’s better-than-expected performance in Miami-Dade County powered his statewide victory, defying polls. The Cuban political star also touts diverse policy positions, including support for LGBT rights, equal pay and women’s rights to go with more traditional conservative stances.

Raphael Warnock. The pastor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s former church in downtown Atlanta forced a runoff with incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler in Georgia, and the race instantly becomes the focal point of all politics for the next few months. That’s because depending on how the remaining races are called, an upset victory in the Jan. 5 election could lead to a 50-50 tie in the Senate — with either Kamala Harris or Mike Pence breaking the tie, depending how the top of the ticket plays out. 

Jamaal Bowman. The former middle school principal, considered by many to be the next AOC, romped in his New York City congressional district as expected. He will join a Democratic caucus that looks to be smaller and more liberal come January — and as his interview on The Carlos Watson Show reveals, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with. Watch Now.

How Are You Coping? 

We asked readers how they were dealing with the uncertainty. Here are some of their best responses, and you can add yours by emailing politics@ozy.com.

Christy T. — “My secret and crazy coping mechanism was doing paint-by-numbers while binge-watching Alaska: The Last Frontier on Philo.”

Jean K. — “Only one vote that counts — God’s. His plan is good. How do I know that? Because He is good. How do I know that? Because He gave us His Son. Why did He do that? To take the punishment we deserve.”

Beverly H. — “As a retired nursery school teacher, I am watching Daniel Tiger and Curious George on TV.”

Marty C. — ”I take my concerns outside — hiking has always helped me with the process. While my body is moving on the trail, I release the attachments to my concerns by making a mental list of my worries, and the feelings associated with them. Out in nature, my problems don’t seem quite so big, and I am able to find gratitude.”

Linda W. — ”Too early to drink, so I’m doing crossword puzzles.”

Mysti F. — ”Leinenkugel pumpkin patch ale.”

Political Tremors: How to Survive Election Day Drama

If it feels like the ground is shaking under your feet, you’re not alone. America’s tectonic political plates are shifting ahead of an election that’s being cast in apocalyptic terms by both sides. And they’re training their energy on a handful of states that truly matter. Today’s Sunday Magazine is a deep dive to prep you for Tuesday — and beyond, as a mass of mail in votes could stretch the drama for weeks. What should you be watching for in the key states? Who are some people who could surprise you? What can you do if you’ve already voted? We’ve got you covered. Make a plan to vote and read on.

swing state breakdown

All percentages are from the OZY/0ptimus Forecast, which gives Joe Biden an 87 percent chance of reaching the 270 electoral vote mark to defeat President Donald Trump.

TEXAS

Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes)

Our pick to win: Biden (74 percent chance of victory). About a third of election outcomes have Pennsylvania as the tipping point state in the Electoral College — and Biden has held a consistent polling lead thanks to a blue wave in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh suburbs and a slight receding of the massive Trump tide in rural white areas. Republicans have gained in voter registrations here, but that may be a misleading signal.

What a contested race looks like: Pennsylvania was one of the few states with no early voting (and few mail-in ballots) prior to 2020, with predictably dismal results in an April primary that saw thousands of votes tossed out. “Naked ballots” (voters don’t use a required security envelope) threaten to become the “hanging chads” of 2020, leading to a naked celebrity PSA to inform voters. The Republican state Legislature and the GOP-controlled courts refused to allow the mail vote to be counted early, and seven counties won’t even start counting mail ballots until Wednesday, meaning the results could take days or weeks to finalize — with a Supreme Court decision looming over ballots that arrive after Election Day. 

Florida (29)

Our pick to win: Trump (38 percent). Our gut goes against our Forecast here. The Sunshine State has been extremely close the last two national elections, and Biden has held a slim, if consistent, lead in polling. But in both 2016 and 2018, pollsters overstated Democratic support, so we’re skeptical that new Florida resident Trump has lost as much of the senior vote as surveys suggest.

What a contested race looks like: Broward County, in the Miami metropolitan area, was a key culprit in the chaos of the 2000 recount, and a close vote here could trigger similar animus, led by newly appointed elections supervisor Peter Antonacci, a Republican lawyer who has already had one major mishap purge notice since taking the beleaguered department’s reins. 

Michigan (16)

Our pick to win: Biden (86 percent). Of the Trump Rust Belt trifecta that won him the presidency — Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin — this was the one with his smallest margin of victory, less than 11,000 votes, a number that the college town of Ann Arbor alone could have made up with higher Democratic turnout. This time around, Biden is likely to win, thanks in part to turnout that could reach as many as 6 million voters, eclipsing the 4.8 million votes of four years ago.

What a contested race looks like: Voter intimidation could be an issue, as armed militia members stormed the state Capitol in both April and September to protest COVID-19 lockdowns — not to mention the foiled plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. In addition, an appellate court judge recently blocked Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s attempt to ban people from openly carrying guns within 100 feet of polling places. In a close race, Whitmer and the Democrats could be at odds with the Republican-controlled Michigan Supreme Court, which has two seats up for election that could flip the court’s composition.

MICHINGAN

Wisconsin (10)

Our pick to win: Biden (79 percent). Wisconsin is perceived as less blue than Michigan, but Biden has held a consistent lead here and a number of very strong polls have emerged recently to suggest his support hasn’t dropped off. 

What a contested race looks like: Wisconsin has a Republican Legislature and state Supreme Court that have already stymied Democrat Gov. Tony Evers, particularly by forcing Wisconsin to hold an in-person primary during the spring pandemic surge against expert advice — and the state court could play a critical role in other disputes, especially after the U.S. Supreme Court this week declined to overturn its decision to nullify mail ballots postmarked by, but arriving after Election Day.

Arizona (11)

Our pick to win: Biden (58 percent). Arizona has gone for a Democratic presidential contender just once since 1952 — Bill Clinton in 1996 — but two years ago it elected Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema to replace retiring GOP Sen. Jeff Flake. Large suburban population growth, including a surge in California expats, could paint the state blue again. 

What a contested race looks like: Arizona has a Republican trifecta in state government (controlling the governorship, Legislature and courts) and in 2018 saw weekslong delays in tabulating the final vote. But the state passed laws to count ballots earlier, and voters are used to voting by mail, meaning Arizona could see one of the smoother Election Days.

North Carolina (15)

Our pick to win: Trump (38 percent). Among the Democrats’ “demographics are destiny” states across the South that are becoming more diverse, North Carolina is the most purple — but also the slowest in moving their direction. The state has essentially been tied for months in the polls, but its slight conservative bent and Trump’s ability to generate rural and small-town turnout should not be underestimated, and it’s why we are (slightly) Trumpier than our forecast data here.

What a contested race looks like: The U.S. Supreme Court has let stand a new rule allowing the Tar Heel State count mail ballots postmarked by Election Day that arrive by Nov. 12. But like elsewhere, late ballots will stoke fresh lawsuits and an attempt at a GOP shutdown. While Democrats control the governor’s mansion, the state elections board and the state Supreme Court, Republicans hold the Legislature — so if there’s a close race and a battle over ballots, one can imagine a potential constitutional standoff: The governor and the legislature could each claim victory for their party and send competing slates of electors to Washington who are pledged to Biden and Trump, respectively. Then it’s up to Congress to sort it out. 

Georgia (16)

Our pick to win: Trump (45 percent). This is an excruciatingly tight race, and while our model gives Biden the slight edge in what’s basically a coin flip, we figure this tantalizing Democratic target remains just barely out of reach for Team Blue. 

What a contested race looks like: Georgia was the poster child for voter suppression concerns two years ago, and the Republican secretary of state at the center of it all, Brian Kemp, is now governor. Expect his 2018 challenger, Democrat Stacey Abrams, and her voting rights organization Fair Fight to challenge poll closures (which marred the June 9 primary) and other questionable decisions.

Texas (38)

Our pick to win: Trump (60 percent). None of these matter if Trump can’t win this megastate that hasn’t picked a Democrat since Jimmy Carter in 1976. Its rapidly shifting demographics and monster early voter turnout have Democrats excited enough to send Kamala Harris to campaign, but they’re not sending significant money — and the anticipated blue Texas will likely not arrive just yet. Read more on OZY.

What a contested race looks like: The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld an order from GOP Gov. Greg Abbott to limit mail-ballot drop locations to just one per county, scuttling Houston’s Harris County plan to offer a dozen places to serve its nearly 5 million voters … a sign that the Texas courts could side with statewide Republicans in any Election Day disputes, after an October study found Texas to have the most restrictive voting laws in the country.

Nevada (6)

Our pick to win: Biden (79 percent). Similarly to Trump in Texas, a Biden loss here is in the realm of possibility but would likely signal a rout of the former vice president. 

What a contested race looks like: In September, a Nevada court tossed out a Trump campaign lawsuit against the Democratic Legislature’s new law automatically sending mail ballots to all registered voters. Trump is now seeking to halt Clark County vote counts until Republicans are granted better ability to observe the process and discount fraud, a case that likely won’t fly in Nevada but could possibly be used by the conservative U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate votes after Election Day.

Ohio (18)

Our pick to win: Trump (51 percent). Biden has made strides in Ohio since Trump won it by 8 percentage points in 2016, but concerns from Black leaders that the party hasn’t adequately reached voters of color contributes to the feeling that Democrats will fall just short in this one. 

What a contested race looks like: The Ohio election system is much smoother than those of its surrounding Rust Belt neighbors, with mail votes tallied early and a Republican governor and secretary of state dedicated to a fair process … which means a Biden win here could be one of the few ways the race could be over on election night, because it would signal he’s won the less conservative neighboring states and come with the imprimatur of a GOP administration. 

trends to watch

Election Day Violence. America’s police departments are girding for disruptions at the polls. From Dallas to Atlanta to Miami to San Jose, departments are forbidding time off for officers and coordinating with federal officials to monitor threats from various troublemakers who may want to show up with heavy weaponry. This year has already seen its share of street violence and looting. On Election Day? “We may have more of the same,” says one police lieutenant. Read more on OZY.

The Pro-Trump Middle Easterners. Meet the Chaldean Catholics of Michigan, a 95,000-strong group of voters from Iraq and Syria who lean Republican in a state that went for Trump by less than 11,000 votes four years ago. They speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus, and have become pillars of the Detroit business community. By and large they back Trump, appreciating his tough line against ISIS and his business background. Read more on OZY.

TRENDS

Swing Vote of the Future. The dynamic Ilhan Omar was the first Somali American member of Congress, but likely not the last: Foreign-born U.S. citizens are at a record high and constitute a rising political force — with Somali Americans being a particularly strong example in key 2020 swing states, including Minnesota, Maine and Ohio. But don’t assume they’re all Democrats. Read more on OZY.

Rank Your Candidate. Maine’s voters are doing something unusual this year. And its experiment in “ranked-choice voting” has drawn the eyes of the nation to Maine for more than its heated Senate race. The idea is that there are no more “wasted” votes — if your chosen candidate lands outside the top two, your vote is reassigned to your second choice. Several other states are considering implementing their own version and will be watching closely. Read more on OZY.

Exit Music. COVID-19 will not stop exit polls in this year’s election, but how much should we trust them? The polls — huge surveys funded by major media outlets to give a picture of the electorate as they vote — are a mainstay of Election Day, as they tell us voter demographics and the key factors impacting their decisions. But a flood of early and mail voters makes this job harder for exit pollsters, who will have to rely more on phone calls in addition to in-person surveys. Plus, exit polls badly undersampled white working-class voters in 2016, prompting a woeful misread of the Trump coalition.

down ballot names to know

George Gascón. The Los Angeles district attorney’s race is the most important campaign you haven’t heard about. Incumbent Jackie Lacey faces a surprisingly stiff challenge from Gascón, 66, the former DA of San Francisco who’s shown a much greater willingness to prosecute cops — and whose reformist approach has gained steam since the death of George Floyd. There are also intriguing racial dynamics at play with the Cuban American Gascón taking on the Black female Lacey — who’s opposed by Black Lives Matter. The winner will preside over America’s largest local prosecutor’s office.

DOWN

Nancy Mace. South Carolina’s Senate contest is drawing gobs of attention and record-obliterating cash, but this bellwether House race down along the coast is worth watching too. Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham won a surprise victory in 2018 and is now locked in a neck and neck race with Mace, 42, the first female cadet at the Citadel and a sharp-tongued rising star for the GOP — if she wins. Read more on OZY.

Nicole Galloway. There are only a handful of governor’s races this year, and one of the most compelling is in Missouri, where a 38-year-old Democratic auditor and soccer mom is challenging the incumbent GOP governor, Mike Parson. Galloway is trailing, but if there’s a blue wave coming, she could be washed ashore as a surprise winner. Read more on OZY.

John James. Republicans aren’t playing a lot of offense this year, but they do have an outside shot in the Michigan Senate race, where James is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Gary Peters. James, 39, is a Black man who has spoken frankly about facing down racism — but won’t criticize Trump. He’s an instant national star if he pulls off the upset, as the GOP has been trying to build a more diverse coalition. While there are a record number of Black Democratic Senate candidates in the South this year, they are largely underdogs, and a James victory would mean there are as many Black Republicans in the Senate (two) as Black Democrats (if Kamala Harris loses as veep and stays put in the Senate).

Raphael Warnock. You’re going to hear his name a lot between November and January. A Georgia Democrat, Warnock, 51, is almost certainly heading to a runoff special election against either Sen. Kelly Loeffler or Rep. Doug Collins — who have been bludgeoning each other over who’s more conservative and Trump-loyal. The Jan. 5 runoff could decide which party controls the Senate (and could be joined by another Georgia Senate runoff, if neither Republican Sen. David Perdue nor Democrat Jon Ossoff can break 50 percent). Warnock, the pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church (which Martin Luther King Jr. once called home), brings a churchman’s penchant for outreach to far-flung voters in a play to change this longtime red state’s electorate — building on Abrams’ work.

who are the undecideds?

We have spoken to dozens of undecided voters in recent weeks. Here are takeaways about this vanishingly small group.

Fiscally Uncertain. Trump ran on a message of economic populism, but his most significant economic policy win was a tax cut weighted toward the wealthy. “When [Republicans] say ‘tax breaks,’ I feel like they don’t understand how economics actually works for us,” says Texan Khanh Hoang, a 27-year-old field service engineer who typically leans conservative. “I thought he was going to run the government like a business and make it profitable, rather than printing $3 trillion for his friends,” says Jerry Kraemer, a 70-year-old operations manager from Kentucky who has been frustrated by the increasing debt and bailout of the airline industry. However, some cited the stock market and pre-pandemic economy as a plus. “I like the Trump economic world we’ve had the last four years,” says Michelle O’Neal, an office worker in Virginia. And Steve Friedewald, a 57-year-old who works in the gas industry in Texas, said he would likely vote for the economic and tax policies that benefited his family most: “It’s not good for my livelihood to switch to an industry that doesn’t exist: clean fuel,” he said.

Anti-Abortion Democrats Still Exist. And many of them told us that while they despised Trump, they were having a tough time supporting Biden given his ticket’s unapologetic support of abortion rights. “I just can’t vote for Trump. And I cannot vote for Kamala Harris, because she is pro-abortion,” said Cynthia Ogrey, a 78-year-old retired nurse from Northern California. “If only the Democrats would realize that, they would be virtually unbeatable if they backed off on the abortion issue. Where are the [pro-choice] voters gonna go, to the Republicans?” adds Mark Schmidt, a 62-year-old teacher and devout Catholic in Oregon. 

Unsatisfied With Biden. Some on the left, as well as some centrists, dislike Trump but aren’t thrilled with the Democrat. “I’m going to vote. I just wish the Democrats had not picked Biden. Biden, to me, is like a freaking wall paint that’s drying — boring as shit,” says Revelation Walker, a 43-year-old Black woman from Georgia. “If we vote for Biden, we’re enabling the same mind-think that led to Hillary Clinton running,” says Kevin O’Connell, a 36-year-old California stock trader. “Give them another four years of Trump, and hopefully Democrats learn a lesson — then hopefully get a legit candidate.”

Just Sick of It All. There is also a swath of undecideds who just no longer believes in American politics as a whole — and are likely to vote third party or not at all. “I don’t feel like anything is going to change. At this point, there aren’t any issues that I care about — because, at this point, candidates always say they will do this or do that, and nothing ever happens,” says Jequan Mayo, 20, of Pennsylvania. “I would vote for Captain Crunch year after year over any of these idiots,” says Dan Rhodehamel, a 44-year-old bartender from Chicago. As Bryan Stevens, a 40-year-old from Oregon, not-so-delicately puts it: “A shit sandwich or a crap sandwich? I’m not sure I’m going to bother even picking a sandwich.”

what can you do?

Say you’ve already voted but don’t want to just sit around and stress-eat for the next three days. Here’s what to do:

Volunteer for a Campaign. There’s still time to text and call key voters, or knock on doors — in a socially distanced way. Campaigns can always use new volunteers. Perhaps consider a local or state candidate or party that could use the bodies more than the well-armed machines running for president.

Help at the Polls. It’s too late to sign up to be a poll worker, but you can give rides to the polls to friends/family/passersby. Also, if you’re near a precinct with long lines on Election Day, show up with water, pizza, coffee, snacks or just encouragement for those folks who are taking an extended amount of their time to participate in democracy.

Become a Keyboard Warrior. You really want to win that Facebook argument, don’t you? The Biden and Trump campaigns have toolkits for best spreading their message online, and authentic posts from you with a snazzy graphic attached can go a longer way than what the campaign wizards gin up for paid promotion across the internet.

Breathe. We all could use some self-care right now, and you can overdose on election news. So make sure you’re creating downtime and not filling all your spare hours arguing about politics, because that’s no fun for anyone. It starts with learning to breathe better. Read more on OZY.

Inside the Trump Bubble, Where the Polls Are All Wrong Again

  • With less than a week to go, OZY’s predictive election model gives Joe Biden an 86 percent chance of winning the presidency, pegging him to earn 317 electoral votes.
  • While polls, history, economic data and other factors point the other way, Donald Trump’s supporters don’t buy the numbers — insisting it’s 2016 all over again.

Interstate 70 was a sea of the new patriotism: red, white and Trump. Pickups, big rigs, motorcycles, dump trucks, cement mixers and cars honking and hooting with fluttering American flags next to Trump campaign flags. They drove from swing state Ohio to swing state Pennsylvania, with a brief pass through West Virginia, the heart of Appalachia, home of the voters who vaulted Trump to the presidency four years ago. For loyal Trump fans, it was another sign — like actual yard signs — that those stuffy Beltway elites ignore when measuring Trump’s support across America.

Riding the Trump train is a thrilling, if terrifying, experience, and this week was about rediscovering that high from four years ago. As his supporters stormed the interstate Saturday, Trump was careening himself — voting near Mar-a-Lago in Florida, crashing the Buckeye football opener in Ohio, rallying in North Carolina, barnstorming Wisconsin, all in a day’s work. The bubble of the media and political elites in Washington and New York is real, but so too is the Trump fanatic bubble — wherein Trump’s victory is inevitable and crowded in-person rallies, which have been linked to surges in local coronavirus cases, are not risky at all.

The poll numbers are a lie. It’s insane how many lies are flying around and nobody can see it.

Laurelaii Nowicki, Trump supporter in Pennsylvania

There is no starker sign of the hole Trump is in than the new contours of the electoral battlefield. According to OZY’s exclusive prediction model, in partnership with the Republican data firm 0ptimus, the current presidential toss-up states are Arizona, Georgia, Iowa and Ohio — all states that Trump had no problem winning in 2016. If the president has any hope of righting his path toward a second term, he will have to sweep those states plus several more considered to be leaning or even likely Democratic: Florida, North Carolina, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Our forecast, which analyzes polls, spending, historical trends and other factors when assessing the race, now gives Biden an 86 percent chance of victory, with a target of 317 electoral votes — and the possibility of much more if he picks up the toss-ups.

Those numbers have been incredibly steady for months now, and Biden is surfing that advantage as Americans vote early in droves: More than 70 million ballots have been cast as of Tuesday night, more than half of the total 2016 vote with a week to go. “At this point, Trump’s reelection hinges on very high Election Day turnout among his core supporters and a large systematic error in the polls — not the sorts of factors any candidate truly wants to rely on,” says Scott Tranter, founder and CEO of 0ptimus.

Donald Trump Holds A Campaign Rally In Central Ohio

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a campaign event in Circleville, Ohio.

Trump supporters argue that this is exactly where they were in 2016 — discounted, left for dead, only to experience the thrill of Trump’s last-minute ascension. There are still a number of routes to a Trump victory: upsets in those swing states due to a rise of so-called “shy” Trump voters who the polls never reached, or perhaps the mass disqualifying of mail ballots in states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, with thin margins and a lot of first-time mail voters due to the pandemic. “The chances of Trump supporters talking to a pollster is very small,” argues former congressman Bruce Poliquin, a Trump supporter, who told me to drive through rural Maine and count signs for Trump and Biden and see who wins, to see the truth.

Signs, like rally attendance, like voter registration, like tea leaves, like Twitter likes, are imperfect as scientific measures of support — although one recent study did find that lawn signs could increase vote share by 1.7 percentage points. However, the problem isn’t just that Trump lags Biden by 9 points nationally this time (far beyond what Hillary Clinton enjoyed). The issue is that Trump doesn’t even clearly lead the signs battle anymore. Recently driving through the Maine wilderness, as Poliquin suggested, down through fiercely independent New Hampshire, to divided Pennsylvania and famously split-ticketed Ohio, there was more Biden-Harris paraphernalia in rural areas than one might expect, even if they were still outnumbered by Trump-Pence signs.

And in the suburbs, like Mount Lebanon outside Pittsburgh? The signs supporting Democrats seemed at times as plentiful as the fall leaves. For every Trump train rally there is a Black Lives Matter protest — thousands of people, like the Trump supporters in 2016, demanding change. The enthusiasm is no longer one-sided. “That exposes an extraordinarily serious challenge for the Republicans, because the suburbs are very populous,” says Terry Madonna, a political scientist at Pennsylvania’s Franklin & Marshall College.

Gone from the president’s rallies are the Trump-curious, who showed up to see what the outsider candidate was like and at the ballot box took a flier on his anti-establishment promise. Unlike when Trump was facing Clinton, there are very few undecided voters this time, with Biden frequently topping 50 percent of the vote in polls in critical Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. But the die-hards remain, and they are seeing 2016 all over again, rather than the mounting evidence that this is not a rerun.

“The poll numbers are a lie. It’s insane how many lies are flying around and nobody can see it. The left is crazy. Every single person here will agree, there are thousands of people here,” says Laurelai Nowicki, noting the turnout at a Trump rally in Erie, Pennsylvania. “It is insane to me that there are so many people falling for the crap.”

Undecided, With Just a Week to Go

A helpful reminder: Election night is not the first day of voting, it’s the last. And yet, even though more than 60 million Americans have already cast ballots by mail or at in-person early voting, some people are still deciding between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, or whether to vote at all. As part of our weekly series leading up to Election Day, OZY is interviewing undecided voters about how they’re thinking about their choices. Still undecided yourself? Email us at politics@ozy.com. Below, read some of our latest conversations, edited for clarity and space.

Tyler Russell, 34, engineer, Ohio

Past votes: John McCain (’08), Mitt Romney (’12), Gary Johnson (’16)

I don’t want to make such an important decision without having as much data as I can. I’m generally very disappointed with the way that Trump handled the Black Lives Matter protests. And it’s frankly somewhat scary, the way he sent in the National Guard to shut down predominantly peaceful protests, and really just his lack of reverence for the First Amendment. On the other hand, I think there are a lot of things Trump has done for the betterment of the country that have fallen under the radar. No. 1, the standard tax deduction for most families has gone up significantly, so it’s given people a bit more breathing room. I’ve also seen accounts of him bringing the Black community together, although I don’t really know the full context of those meetings.

It’s really between Biden and Trump this time around. Last time, it was a no-brainer for me to vote third party, I was pretty disgusted with both [Trump and Hillary Clinton]. As far as Biden, my main concerns with him are, No. 1, health. A lot of what he has said about letting the Democratic Party lead worries me: Sooner or later, you need somebody in that position who will take a stance. We need somebody who will be able to make a decision. It’s not even so much policy-based, I just think politics has become so much of a machine — and I like having the feeling that one person can ultimately make the decision, that he is not just the figurehead and the machine is running everything.

It’s been a little refreshing having the establishment, stereotypical GOP rocked a little bit. But I think it’s probably gone too far. At this point I’m leaning toward Biden, just because at the end of the day, I don’t know that I can look my son in the face 10 years from now and tell him I voted for Trump. He, as a human being, is pretty repulsive to me.

Dan Rhodehamel, 44, bartender, Illinois

Past votes: Barack Obama (’08, ’12), Johnson (’16)

We need more than two parties. I want money taken out of the electoral process. I feel like no matter who I vote for, it’s just the same two-headed dragon. And it’s the same body of a fucking dragon, you know? There is some dissonance between the two heads fighting each other, but it’s the same animal. Until you get a different animal, a third party, it’s not a winning proposition either way.

I’ve felt this way since I was 18. I would vote for Captain Crunch year after year, over any of these idiots. Give me Vermin Supreme.… I would have rather seen Ross Perot elected than either of these two assholes. It’s endless wars, it’s money. Just take the money out of the system. Give me a viable third party. Stop doing this to me. 

I’ve voted in every election that I can. But it’s the lesser of two evils every fucking time. On a local level, I vote for judges, the ones that don’t incarcerate Black people. Everybody says if you vote third party, you’ve wasted your vote. But how do you get out of this two-party system if you don’t? We’re stuck in this two-party system. I feel I’m locked into it. There is no alternative. It’s a never-ending war. Everything is kind of a bummer.

Felix Millan, 64, retired teacher, Oregon

Past votes: Did not disclose

I like Trump’s style. I think it’s more humorous than anything else. But with the other ticket, I have some concerns — age primarily for Biden — and I don’t know really much about [Kamala] Harris other than a few things I’ve read; I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with her being one step away from the presidency. I really don’t know. I’m ambivalent right now. I don’t really know which way to turn.

Kevin O’Connell, 36, stock trader, California

Past votes: Clinton (’16)

If we vote for Biden, then we’re enabling the same groupthink that led to Hillary running, that now has led to Joe running. And at that point, when is change going to actually come? In 2016, I voted for Hillary and it was a very hard choice for me. And that’s even in California, where I knew it didn’t matter. It felt like really bad parenting — your child threw a temper tantrum and you gave him the cake just to shut him up.

I decided a couple months ago I was going to vote for Trump. But obviously every time I see Trump talk, it gets harder. The [first] debate made me consider not voting, as opposed to voting for Trump. Voters are clearly moving: From the last election cycle to this one, all of Bernie’s ideas have been put at the front. Give them another four years of Trump, and hopefully Democrats learn a lesson, then hopefully get a legit candidate.

Trump’s Life Could Rest in This Military Surgeon’s Hands

Sean Conley knows pressure. While in Afghanistan, the U.S. Navy surgeon once saved the life of a Romanian soldier who was hit by an IED; he led a team that cracked open the patient’s chest and literally squeezed his heart to keep it pumping. His leadership won the trauma department head, and six other colleagues, a Romanian medal of honor. And yet even that whirlwind of an experience didn’t prepare the president’s physician for the gale force he experienced Saturday, charged with navigating a 74-year-old obese president through a virus known for killing seniors with preconditions and doing so under the most intense scrutiny perhaps any American doctor has ever faced.

Flanked by nine fellow medical team members, Conley gave a news conference to update the public on the president’s condition Saturday — and delivered a dose of confusion instead. “This morning, the president is doing very well,” he began, benignly enough, but then dropped that it was now “just 72 hours into the diagnosis” … a number that defied the official narrative from the White House, and which he later had to correct as Thursday night. When asked whether the president had received oxygen, Conley seemed to be dodging the question, insisting repeatedly that Trump was not on it “right now,” before finally giving a timeline that ruled out Thursday and Saturday but seemed to suggest Trump may have received oxygen at the White House on Friday.

At one point, Conley said the president is “doing so well,” downplayed Trump’s obesity as being “a little overweight” and declared that while the president originally had “a mild cough, some nasal congestion and fatigue,” all of those symptoms “are now resolving or improving.” But that optimism was contradicted moments later, when Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters that the president’s vitals “over the last 24 hours were very concerning,” that “the next 48 hours will be critical,” and that the president was “still not on a clear path to a full recovery.”

It’s amazing what you can do when you have the right tools and the team that works with efficiency to make it happen.

Dr. Sean Conley, on trauma surgery in Afghanistan

So either Conley stretched the truth with his rosy diagnosis, or the White House wants to push a more dire narrative — or the truth lies somewhere in between. Either way though, the mixed messaging doesn’t reflect well on Conley, whose role should be to to provide clarity in a moment rife with national concern. As Conley himself said after that fateful day in Afghanistan where his team saved that Romanian’s life despite numerous obstacles: “It’s amazing what you can do when you have the right tools and the team that works with efficiency to make it happen.” The former Navy lieutenant commander has access to whatever tools he could ever need, and a team full of experts at his disposal — but can he rise to the occasion?

The famously bullish president will present unique challenges to Conley’s medical team. After all, Trump has downplayed the virus on multiple occasions and has also suggested a number of nonscientific cures against expert recommendations. He also faces pressure to get back on the campaign trail, with just a month left before Election Day. And it’s quickly becoming clear that Trump is willing to take aggressive, risky measures to fight the disease.

On Friday afternoon, the White House released a statement from Conley, announcing that Trump had received an 8-gram infusion from an experimental coronavirus treatment developed by Regeneron. The New York biotech company began clinical trials of the antibody cocktail in June and has not yet completed them. After receiving the infusion, Trump decamped from the White House to Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, for a multiday stay on the advice of Conley and others.

Trump has pushed doctors to prescribe hydroxychloroquine to either prevent or treat the virus — he even announced in May that he was taking it himself, despite numerous studies refuting the drug’s efficacy and listing potential negative side effects. That led Conley to send a memo, released by White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, explaining the decision. “After numerous discussions he and I had regarding the evidence for and against the use of hydroxychloroquine, we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risk,” the memo read.

Conley’s memo is potentially a troubling indication of his blind spots when it comes to pushing back against the commander in chief, suggests Gustavo Ferrer, a veteran pulmonologist who has run two ICUs in the Miami area since the outbreak began. “Every organization in the whole world has supported research into hydroxychloroquine and there is still no evidence it works, neither for treatment nor prevention,” Ferrer says, adding that those studies existed earlier this summer. “[Conley] should have cautioned and advised [Trump] that the president should not take this, period. The evidence doesn’t support it.” To be fair, this time around Conley says he has not put the president on hydroxychloroquine, despite Trump having asked about it.

A native of the Philadelphia suburb of Doylestown, Conley earned an undergraduate degree from Notre Dame in 2002, graduated from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2006 and completed a Navy emergency medicine residency program in Portsmouth, Virginia, in 2013. He assumed the White House physician job in May 2018, replacing the controversial Ronny Jackson, who is now running for Congress as a Republican and is heavily favored to win a seat in Texas. Jackson was known for his sycophantic hyperbole — in one memo he said that if Trump had had a healthier diet the last 20 years, he “might live to be 200 years old.”

NBC News reported Saturday that Conley was Jackson’s pick for the job, and others in the White House Medical Unit believe Conley wasn’t vetted well enough. White House spokesman Judd Deere told NBC: “This type of reporting is grossly irresponsible because Dr. Conley is an imminently [sic] qualified talented physician with a wealth of experience well-suited to serve President Trump and ensure he remains very healthy to continue his work on behalf of the American people.”

Conley has been more measured than Jackson in his assessments of the president’s health. After a physical in January 2019 showed that Trump had gained four pounds while his cholesterol had gone down, Conley wrote that Trump was “in very good health and I anticipate he will remain so for the duration of his presidency, and beyond.” When Trump visited Walter Reed last November, in a weekend trip that didn’t follow typical protocol for a routine exam, Conley reported that the president “has not had any chest pain” and “did not undergo any specialized cardiac or neurologic evaluations.”

While Trump is exhibiting only mild symptoms so far, the worst effects should be seen approximately one week in, says Ferrer. It will be crucial for Conley and his team to monitor blood tests for inflammatory markers, which can help forecast the severity of the virus. For someone of Trump’s age, the disease could last two weeks if there aren’t complications — and three weeks or longer if things worsen. “They need to follow the evidence as things come up day by day, and above all, be on top of his clinical and laboratory blood tests, how they evolve,” Ferrer says. On Saturday, Conley said the team was taking daily tests and that he wouldn’t put a timeline on releasing Trump because “with the known course of the illness, from days 7 to 10 we get really concerned about the inflammatory phase.”

Given that his experience is centered around trauma surgery, Conley is relying on a number of viral and cardiovascular disease experts — on Saturday, he introduced three pulmonary doctors, two infectious disease experts, an anesthesiologist and a clinical pharmacist, plus a number of nurses. Still, given the Trump administration’s reticence to take the advice of experts in the past, Ferrer cautions that Conley will need to be more assertive with Trump. “My hope is they are bringing in people who have been involved in this process, and leave pride at the door,” Ferrer says. “Anything outside the box they may attempt to use has to be supported by evidence.”

American Anger: Too Hot to Handle?

It increasingly feels like America is reaching a boiling point, more raging bonfire than flash in the pan. Already beset by a national recession and a deadly pandemic that has now surpassed 200,000 deaths, this week has stoked new fires, including a Supreme Court battle to fill the Notorious RBG’s seat, President Trump refusing to promise a peaceful transfer of power, mass protests after police officers faced no charges in the death of Breonna Taylor and the swirling of literal fire tornadoes out West. As American anger heats up, we bring a fresh lens to its origins and the core beliefs it threatens to topple, as well as the ways we can work together to douse the flames.

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The Boiling Point

Is This the Death of Civility? 

A moralization of politics, evolving beyond simple differences in opinion, is complete. How can society achieve the consensus it needs to function if everyone regards rivals as “Nazis,” “traitors” or “enemies of the people”? Trump, the torchbearer, has at times fueled racial tensions and stomped on his perceived enemies, citizens and institutions alike. Some have become radicalized by the president’s behavior, meeting fire with fire — from erecting guillotines to accosting Senators to defending violent looters as collecting what society owes them. Meanwhile, the American Fringes have continually hijacked the discourse, worming their ideas into some of America’s most revered institutions. The loss of civility playing out on the national stage has had ripple effects, reflected in an apparent uptick in nastiness nationwide, with ordinary citizens bickering over face masks in stores, trolling each other on social media and facing off over campaign signs next door. In a multiethnic, multicultural and increasingly crowded democracy, respecting commonality while acknowledging differences has been the surest way of moving forward — but it has become a casualty of rising American anger.

Read “Love in the Age of Trump: How the Election Changed Our Relationships” in OZY

Read “Guess Who’s Not Wearing Their Face Masks” on OZY

Is This the Death of Fair Play? 

Questioning fact-based truths and the media undermines democracy by enabling self-serving narratives and conspiracy theories on both sides. Without even basic facts that both sides trust on issues like mask-wearing and ballot security, finding common ground becomes almost impossible. Socially, internet users have become less generous and more aggressive toward those they perceive as enemies. Politically, fairness has been discarded by Republicans willing to flout their own talking points from 2016 in a naked power grab to fill a Supreme Court seat. The president, who notably didn’t win the popular vote, has nominated judge Amy Coney Barrett, who will likely be voted for by two appointed U.S. Senators who have never faced accountability from voters, Sens. Martha McSally of Arizona and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia (the GOP will argue decorum went out the window with the aggressive fight Democrats led against Brett Kavanaugh in 2018). And as Donald Trump already discredits millions of mail-ballot votes in the 2020 election while refusing to promise a peaceful transfer of power, many wonder if the game is rigged.

Read about the “Deciders” Who Will Play a Role in a Contested Election on OZY

Is This the Death of Capitalism? 

Amid the pandemic, we have witnessed U.S. billionaires amassing nearly $1 trillion, unemployment rising to a 15 percent peak and the loss of employer-backed health insurance for 12 million Americans. Between 1975 and 2020, the top 1 percent took $50 trillion from the bottom 90 percent in wages that failed to keep up with the times. Wealth for white Americans is 13 times that of the median Black household, because while President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal helped expand the postwar middle class for white America, it left out communities of color. So American communities are struggling: They are working more and earning less while seeing the cost of living and education drastically increase. When society doesn’t feel its needs are being met, populism — from the right or left — can look inviting. Unless concrete fixes are made, “popular anger is here to stay,” writes the National Review’s Mathis Bitton. 

What About the Dream of Racial Harmony?

Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of a world where his Black children stood hand-in-hand with white children and were judged not by “the color of their skin, but the content of their character” remains elusive. The Black Lives Matter movement has spotlighted the many racial injustices faced by people of color today. Both activists and lawmakers have called for positive change but have seen little progress. 

Learn about bold ideas for addressing race on OZY

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Temperature Check: Where Do They Stand on Key Issues?

White Evangelicals

Despite everything that’s happened, white Christians are actually less motivated to face issues of race than in the past. According to an online survey by the California-based Barna Group, 36 percent of white Christians in 2020 were unmotivated to address racial injustice compared to 23 percent in 2019. This is likely because racial injustice issues carry more political “baggage” in 2020 than before. While a white Christian may have seen racial injustice issues as nonpartisan a year ago, today that phrase ties more directly to the left-leaning Black Lives Matter movement and liberal slogans like “Defund the Police,” which white Christians aren’t as likely to support.

Read More on OZY


Black Generational Divide

In polls that took place before the pandemic, younger Black voters said they were more likely to care about the economy, with about 40 percent saying it was their top issue — more than their older family members and white and Hispanic peers. They were also more likely to support shifting from capitalism to socialism than older Black Americans, although that number is still in the minority at just 33 percent. Since the George Floyd protests began, Black Americans now place policing and race as their top concerns, and, according to a Washington Post poll, overwhelmingly back Joe Biden. 

African Americans Want Better Policing, Not No Policing

Despite suggestions from #DefundThePolice advocates that they speak for Black people, that simply does not bear out in polling — 81 percent say they want more or the same amount of police presence in their neighborhoods, not less. That is in line with polls on a host of issues where white Democrats are significantly more liberal than their African American peers. (Gallup

The White Vote

White voters are abandoning Trump in key states such as Pennsylvania (tied) and Minnesota (Biden +2). They are driven by white women, the scapegoats of 2016 for many after 53 percent supported Trump. They’ve made huge swings in certain states, such as Wisconsin, which swung from +16 for Trump to -9 among non-college educated white women. Still, if white women actually do back Biden over Trump on Election Day, it will be a rarity: Only twice in 17 presidential elections since 1957 have white women chosen the Democratic candidate over the Republican one. A majority of white men still support Trump, but it’s a smaller majority than in 2016, which helps explain why Biden is leading significantly in general election polls. 

Immigrants Are Patriotic

The left sees immigrants as an ally in an effort to reform (and, for some, fully dismantle) an inherently racist America. The right paints immigrants as unwilling to assimilate and a threat. But neither have it right. Immigrants are the most patriotic group in America, owing to their overall optimism for making life in a new country work (while others simply lack a viable exit). But immigrants share neither the far left’s pessimism nor the far right’s racism. 

Another Seismic Party Shift?

The polling is clear: Trump has gained ground with minority voters since 2016 — marginally with Black and Asian American voters and significantly with Hispanic Americans. That isn’t enough to offset significant white flight from the GOP … yet. But it has the potential to create a new party alignment every bit as meaningful as the working-class departure from the Democrats four years ago.

Read More on OZY


Want to Truly Understand How America Is Reshaping Itself? Tune in to the hottest new podcast, “When Katty Met Carlos,” pairing OZY’s Carlos Watson with BBC’s Katty Kay …

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Let It Boil Over … and Clean Up Later

Some ideas of how being aggressive now can actually ease tensions in the long run.

Shut Down Facebook

Enough with the employee town halls, mealy-mouthed apologies and purple-prose press releases: It’s time for Mark Zuckerberg to shut down Facebook for at least the weeks before and after Election Day. That drastic action is necessary given that the social media giant is used to spread mass election disinformation, particularly around the veracity of mail ballots, which could cause chaos in November. While Facebook has promised to ban new political ads, liberals rightly point out that doing so only prevents campaigns from counteracting the (significantly larger) organic reach of conservative outlets known to spread Trump propaganda that often goes viral. Facebook has repeatedly proven unable to police its own product, from allowing the spread of QAnon conspiracy theories to tolerating posts by paramilitary groups like the “Kenosha militia” that may have led to the shootings of protesters by teenager Kyle Rittenhouse. OZY’s Immodest Proposal? Shut it down to help foster a free and fair election.

Read More on OZY

End Minoritarian Rule

In a fascinating piece about Mitch McConnell’s impact on the Democratic Party, Vox founder Ezra Klein argues that the Republican Senate Majority Leader has escalated tactical maneuvers that have allowed Republicans — who have trailed Democrats in total votes in most of the last few national elections — to nonetheless run the country despite being a minority party. In order to get the country back to being both democratic and representative, Klein suggests Democrats may need to use nuclear options if they retake Congress and the White House in November — from axing the filibuster to adding Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico as states and even expanding and then stacking the Supreme Court. While they can certainly expect Republicans to claim foul, if Democrats can pass popular changes while in power, it may be hard for conservatives to justify unraveling them over time.

Enact Widespread Election Reform

After the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013 by essentially arguing that it had worked so well in defeating racist election practices that it no longer was needed, the United States has seen a number of attempts to suppress the vote and use local election laws to keep incumbents in power. It is time for a 21st-century Voting Rights Act, created federally with the power to override state election laws, with a nonpartisan federal group created to require best voting practices that are well-known among election experts, including options like universal access to mail ballots, automatic voter registration and drive-thru ballot drop boxes. While Democrats will likely have to take up that cause and Republicans may oppose it, the evidence is clear that voter fraud is rare … and that attempts to tighten voting security are more often about keeping the GOP in power than about protecting the election process.
Read More on OZY

How to Bring Down the Boil

How to Bring Down the Boil

If Democrats win the White House and the Senate, here are some softer ways to ease tensions across America.

Change State Laws to Proportional Voting

Many opponents of the Electoral College want to scrap it constitutionally. But states could individually change their processes to send electors more proportionally, rather than the winner-take-all system that most states employ today. All Americans would benefit if Republican and Democrat governors alike could be convinced to buy into a more democratic system of governing, one in which few could doubt the mandate of a president.

Halt Bad Faith Campaigns

Slogans like “All Cops Are Bastards” and “Blue Lives Matter” have pitted activists against police in ways that fire past the other’s legitimate gripes and poison the well for actual change, even if well-intended. Of course, police unions have aggressively blocked progress on these issues, and the “us vs. them” tactics have escalated as both police critics and the police themselves have become more political. It will require a president and local leaders who are willing to douse the flames when dealing with public safety issues rather than fan them for political gain. Still, police chiefs like Houston’s Art Acevedo have shown that the right leaders are willing to court change while still living up to their sworn duty (although he, too, has his faults). 

Pass an Internet Bill of Rights

The tiny country of Estonia has declared internet access to be a human right — offering nearly universal, free, public wifi. That comes with a national Blockchain-based government system that protects citizens’ security, allows crimes to be reported and cases to be handled online while also making access to educational, electoral and legislative documents exponentially easier. Black Americans, rural white Americans and others on the margins disproportionately suffer from a lack of digital connectivity, limiting access to public services. Shifting more police work online could limit physical interactions that have sometimes led to tragic and unjustified shooting deaths. Critically, Estonian-style digital IDs would automatically grant, maintain and prove voter registrations, thwarting common voter suppression tactics. These rights could also include access to free fact-checking resources — provided by nonpartisan outlets like Logically, an A.I.-based app fighting disinformation in an effort to improve discourse and knowledge in the U.S., India and other nations.

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Stirring the Pot: Names to Know

Candice and Brian Brackeen: Investing in Overlooked Communities

The venture capital gurus lead Lightship Capital, an Ohio-based fund seeding $50 million to underrepresented founders in the Midwest. With innovative tactics, including moving in with the founders of companies they’re investing in, the Black empowerment duo are finding opportunity by investing in the often overlooked. 

Thomas Chatterton Williams: Deemphasizing Race 

The biracial New Jersey native turned Parisian intellectual eloquently (if controversially) speaks and writes about the importance of deemphasizing race at a time when Black Lives Matter has greatly accentuated it, decrying well-meaning Wokism as racial essentialism revived and advocating for liberal multiculturalism instead.

Aaron T. Walker: Diversifying Leadership

Philanthropy is too often a white man’s game, with white leaders disproportionately funneling donated money to white-led charities … even with stated missions to advance social justice. But Walker, founder and CEO of the accelerator Camelback Ventures, is fighting to change that by providing an incubator that helps innovative and diverse leaders. His project, Capital Collaborative, brings together white philanthropic and corporate executives from across the country to teach them about racial equity. 

Ashley Frawley: Agitating for Happiness

The newest happiness guru says it’s OK to be upset. As an Ojibwe teenager who spent summers on a First Nations reservation in Canada, Frawley was told her feelings of sadness as a teenager were “depression.” But Frawley realized that the negativity and poverty in her life were actually valid things to be sad about — not signs of a mental disorder. Now a lecturer at Swansea University in Wales, Frawley’s research focuses on the way cultural influencers, like wellness companies, try to make happiness a personal problem. She advocates for a more communal, society-focused approach to well-being.

Candace Owens: Red Pills

She used to run a Trump-bashing progressive website before converting to conservatism, and has used her platform the last two years to “red pill” minds to the GOP. Owens, now the founder of the #BLEXIT campaign for Black Americans leaving the Democratic Party, has never been shy with her attack lines — most recently tweeting that this time liberals can’t smear Trump Supreme Court pick Amy Coney Barrett because “she’s a woman, so they can’t hire their usual fake sexual assault victims.” “Barrett has two Black children, so they can’t smear her as a racist,” she added. Owens enjoys a formidable following on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. 

Ben Smith: Media Maven

When the former Buzzfeed News editor-in-chief took over the media column at the New York Times, he was taking on a gig made famous by the legendary late David Carr — and since has revived the column’s popularity with a combination of newsy irreverence and breaking of news that nobody else is ready to divulge, including the infamous “Steele Dossier.” As one reporter wrote, Smith has “a compulsive desire to make hamburgers out of sacred cows.”

Tomi Lahren: Talking Points

The Fox News regular is far removed from her Colin Kaepernick-bashing “Final Thoughts” days … although she still proudly backs the police, as she did recently in an appearance on The Carlos Watson Show. From mimicking Trump’s warning about a rigged election and rampant mail fraud to ridiculing the intolerance of leftists, Lahren is also experiencing life changes: The South Dakota native has hopped from Los Angeles to Nashville, Tennessee, where she is regularly recognized on the social scene. And, as she tells Watson in the revealing one-on-one interview, she’s an original conservative.

Michaela Coel: Standing Her Ground

She became famous with Chewing Gum, a coming-of-age story of a young Black woman exploring her religious roots, sexuality and voice in Great Britain. Her HBO show, I May Destroy You, has been a massive hit and has paid off her gamble from 2017, when she rejected a $1 million Netflix offer to buy the show rights because the streaming giant wouldn’t give her copyright royalties. With full creative and financial control, Coel is changing the conversation in a way only the daughter of Ghanian immigrants could.

Trump’s Mass Political Migration 2.0?

The 2016 president election was such a shock in part because pollsters didn’t account for a sudden, stark political migration — of working-class, non-college-educated Democrats to a Republican Party helmed by the billionaire Donald Trump. Four years later, Trump is once again behind in the polls. But if another political migration is afoot, it’s not based on blue- vs. white-collar dynamics. No, it’s in another, perhaps even more surprising potential shift — of a portion of minority voters leaving the Democrats to tout the Republican banner.

That may seem unlikely, given Trump’s reputation for racist comments and nativist politics. Yet the polls are starting to paint a picture that’s hard to ignore: one in which Trump has made statistically significant gains with Black, Asian and Latino voters since being elected president.

On Tuesday, Biden was shown to be up 54 to 30 percent over Trump with Asian American voters, according to the 2020 Asian American survey. That’s a significant advantage. However, it’s just about half the advantage Hillary Clinton had four years ago, when she beat Trump 69 to 25 percent among that demographic. With 15 percent of those voters still undecided, Trump will gain even more support on Election Day — likely earning him over a third of Asian Americans after just getting a quarter of them in 2016.

“He’s eating into the people who said they would vote for some other candidate,” says Karthick Ramakrishnan, founder and director of AAPI Data, which helped conduct the survey, noting that third-party candidates aren’t getting nearly as much traction this time around.

That narrowing of the margins with Asian Americans has been happening with Black and Hispanic voters for months now, a mounting worry for Democrats if not a pressing one as Biden still has remained atop national polls. For instance, Trump’s share with Black voters has increased from 2016 as he has aggressively courted them by touting historically low unemployment rates and added funds for historically Black colleges. While Trump earned somewhere between 7 to 10 percent of Black voters in 2016, his share has expanded in 2020 polls — from a floor of 10 percent in most polls to some surveys showing as high as 24 percent approval.

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President Donald Trump addresses supporters during a campaign rally in Freeland, Michigan.

Source MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty

Meanwhile, Biden has been leaking Latino voters since becoming the Democratic nominee. Two polls in June showed his support hovering around 60 percent, a dip from the 66 percent who backed Clinton and 72 percent who last voted for Obama. “We kind of have an unwritten rule of thumb as Democrats when it comes to the Latino electorate: You really need to win 65 percent,” Moe Vela, a former Biden senior adviser, told OZY at the time. More recently, an NBC/Marist poll had Trump beating Biden with Hispanic voters in Florida by a 50-46 margin … echoing results from other potential swing states like Georgia and Texas, where the Latino vote is tight and still up for grabs with many undecided voters.

Those results overall suggest that Trump has made significant inroads with voters of color across the spectrum. If those gains are marginal, a few percentage points, perhaps it will be a drop in the bucket of a larger electoral loss. But if they are bigger and Trump wins — say with 20 percent of the Black vote, 40 percent of Latinos and 30 percent of Asian American voters — then Trump may have succeeded in reversing long-standing American political demographics once again.

There are number of reasons to suspect a shift is occurring, despite Trump’s continued racial rhetoric and exclusionary politics. Both Hispanic and Asian American voters view the economy as their most important voting issue far above immigration, and Republicans are still perceived as doing better on that issue (Black voters list race and policing as their top priorities, perhaps not a surprise given the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement). And as the Democratic Party becomes the party of white-collar intellectuals, and the Republican Party scoops up more working-class, non-college-educated voters, it could be that Trump is starting to collect more minority voters by default — given that people of color (although not Asian Americans) are more likely to work in blue-collar jobs and not have attended college.

If that’s the case, class-based realities are driving migration to Trump, rather than race-based ones. Particularly among newer minority Americans, those who more recently immigrated to the country, his message resonates — multiple surveys have shown that the recently naturalized are more patriotic and are likely to back sitting presidents. “Among first-generation immigrants, they are highly nationalistic,” says Scott Tranter, a GOP strategist and founder of the data firm 0ptimus Analytics, although he admits long-term gains may not last. “I don’t know to the extent it will solidify.”

Trump has made explicit overtures to the Indian American community, both visiting India and hosting Prime Minister Nahendra Modi at a rally in Houston. He has also supported immigration reforms that would favor Indians, who currently face green card backlogs of as long as 151 years (interestingly, Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris, of Indian descent, co-sponsored a Senate bill to also address those delays). Trump has seen an increase with Indian voters supporting him, from just 16 percent in 2016 to 28 percent this September. And he’s also seen growing backing from Korean (18 to 26 percent) and Vietnamese (34 to 48 percent) voters. “The power of the incumbency explains some of the shift,” Ramakrishnan says, adding that “the president is able to prioritize what issues will be highlighted.”

It’s worth noting that specific demographic group changes have smaller sample sizes and, thus, higher margins of error. Plus, not all demographics appear to have shifted for Trump — Chinese support dipped from 24 percent in 2016 to just 20 percent now, despite the efforts of online activists to buoy his candidacy through WeChat and other social media platforms. It “remains to be seen” whether his improvement with minority voters “is something that’s temporary, just for this year, or whether four years from now it will disappear,” Ramakrishnan says.

Still, the fact that Trump is making gains at all is a trend to track ahead of a November election that may be closer than experts are predicting — even as our own OZY/0ptimus model gives Biden an 81 percent chance of winning at the moment, mostly because of his improved performance with seniors and white working-class voters. A lot can happen, particularly with a large vote-by-mail election that Trump is already working to discredit.

If Trump does succeed in winning over large swaths of minority voters, he will have restored the Republican Party to the days of George W. Bush, who won 44 percent of Hispanics and Asian American voters and believed the GOP could become the “big tent” party that Ronald Reagan envisioned.

Our Forecast: A Brewing Current Could Lift Biden … or Swamp Him

Last week, our OZY model with data and technology firm 0ptimus gave Joe Biden an 81 percent chance of winning the presidency. This week, that forecast is around 81.4 percent, so basically nothing has changed, right? Not so fast.

Even flat waters can hide rapid currents, and while the probabilities of the 2020 election have remained largely the same, a number of slight shifts have occurred below the surface — ones with the potential to disrupt the race more dramatically with time. “We just haven’t seen the waves yet,” says Scott Tranter, founder and CEO of 0ptimus.

The biggest news is a set of gold standard polls released in Minnesota and New Hampshire. Biden was up 16 points over Trump in an ABC/Washington Post poll of 615 likely Minnesota voters, a large break from three previous polls that had him up 9 points. Meanwhile, Trump received good news with a New York Times/Siena poll that had him down just 3 points in New Hampshire, closer than the 8-point deficit he had last month.

While Biden appears to be solidifying his lead in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, data shows the president may have growing momentum with Granite State voters. Trump has a soft spot for New Hampshire, after winning his first primary in the 2016 election there and bonding with voters over promises to end opioid abuse and the high cost of medical prescriptions. “There is some movement in the race, but it’s offsetting,” Tranter says.

Expect even choppier waters in the Senate races. While Democrats still have a three-quarters chance of taking control of the upper chamber, the races are getting tighter — with polls showing contractions in both Georgia Senate races and in Iowa, the two states rated as “Toss-Ups” in the OZY/0ptimus model. The former is particularly important to watch because in at least a fifth of the models, the fate of the Senate lies in the Peach State, where a runoff could leave the results up in the air until early January.

Meanwhile, the blue tilt of currently GOP-held Senate seats in Maine and North Carolina is putting Democratic control of the Senate into play for the first time since they lost it in the 2014 midterms. If Biden wins and pairs the presidency with a newly liberal Senate to go with the Nancy Pelosi–led House of Representatives, it would represent a seismic shift for U.S. politics — a blue wave that would soon transform into a liberal tsunami. Which goes to show that even beneath-the-surface shifts can lead to dramatic results.