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The New Yorker: Politics and More

The New Yorker: Politics and More

A weekly discussion about politics, hosted by The New Yorker's executive editor, Dorothy Wickenden.


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The Supreme Court of Facebook

Facebook is at the center of the hottest controversies over freedom of speech, and its opaque, unaccountable decisions have angered people across the political spectrum. Mark Zuckerberg?s answer to this mess is to outsource: Facebook recently created and endowed a permanent body it calls the Oversight Board?like a Supreme Court whose decisions will be binding for the company. And Facebook immediately referred to the board a crucial question: whether to reinstate Donald Trump on the platform, after he was banned for inciting the January 6th riot at the Capitol. In this collaboration between the New Yorker Radio Hour and Radiolab, the producer Simon Adler explores the creation of the Oversight Board with Kate Klonick, whose reporting appears in The New Yorker. What they learn calls into question whether Zuckerberg?s fundamentally American-style view of free speech can be exported around the world without resulting in sometimes dire consequences. 

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Joe Biden?s Plan to Save the American Economy

Throughout his general-election campaign, Joe Biden promised that his first order of business as President would be to deliver COVID{:.small}-19 relief for Americans. This week, as Donald Trump faces his second impeachment in the Senate, Biden is negotiating the American Relief Plan, a $1.9 billion bill designed to stimulate the economy and organize the federal government?s response to the pandemic. Although Biden has long preached the importance of working across party lines, he intends to pass the bill despite opposition from Republicans. John Cassidy joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss Biden?s relief plan and his determination to prove that faith in American democracy can be restored.

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Trump Closed the U.S. to Asylum Seekers. Will Biden Reopen It?

Immediately after Inauguration, the Biden Administration began trying to unwind some of Donald Trump?s most notorious policies on immigration. But, over four years, Trump?s advisers made more than a thousand seemingly bureaucratic, technical rule changes that have had profound consequences. Sarah Stillman reports on the case of a mother and daughter who arrived at the southern border from Honduras. After the family ran afoul of local politicians and crime figures, the father was assassinated and an older daughter was raped in the presence of a police officer. Yet their appeal for asylum was rejected by a Trump-appointed judge, who went to unusual lengths to explain her reasoning. Replaying a recording of the hearing, Stillman walks through the series of legal barriers designed to send the women back into severe danger. ?In order to qualify for asylum,? Stillman remarks, ?you almost have to have been murdered to show that you could be murdered.?  

(Many of the Trump Administration policies were driven by Stephen Miller, the ultra-hard-line immigration adviser; The New Yorker Radio Hour reported in 2020 on Miller?s influence.)

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Will the Pandemic Be the End of Office Life as We Know It?

For most of the twentieth century, the office was one of the centers of American life, and the joys and annoyances of life there have inspired works of art, from Melville?s ?Bartleby, the Scrivener? to NBC?s ?The Office.? But, last spring, in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, several businesses closed their offices and asked employees to work from home. Nearly a year later, many companies? spaces remain closed to their staffs; it is unclear when they?ll be able to reopen, and how many workers can expect to return when they do. John Seabrook joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the past and future of office life?and the personal, economic, and demographic ramifications of remote work.

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Joe Biden, the Second Catholic President

Joe Biden is only the second Catholic out of forty-six Presidents. Paul Elie, a senior fellow at Georgetown University?s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, considers whether that faith may shape Biden?s policies or his leadership. Elie points out that, though prominent Catholics in government, such as William Barr or Amy Coney Barrett, are associated with groups that oppose modern reforms in the Church, Biden aligns with Pope Francis?s ?openness, his informality, his flexibility, his confidence that Catholicism is relevant and lack of anxiety about its place in any culture war.? After decades of sex-abuse scandals in the Church, Elie believes that many Catholic voters ?are yearning for some good news,? and that Biden, though not in the Church hierarchy, ?suggest[s] that there is some moral authority left in this tradition.?  

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How Alexey Navalny Survived an Assassination Attempt and Reignited Protests in Russia

Over the past decade, the anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny has become one of the most influential opponents to President Vladimir Putin. Last August, he was poisoned by Putin?s secret police, and he spent five months recovering in Berlin. Last week, on his return to Moscow, he was detained by Russian authorities. Since then, tens of thousands have taken to the streets to protest his arrest. Masha Gessen joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how Navalny repeatedly outwits the Kremlin, and what these protests could mean for him, and for Putin?s regime.

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Jane Mayer and Evan Osnos on the Balance of Power at the Start of the Biden Administration

With Donald Trump rated the least popular President in the span of modern polling, President Biden might feel confident in claiming a mandate to advance his progressive agenda. Yet Democratic majorities in Congress are slim in the House of Representatives, and razor-thin in the Senate. That gives a small number of Democratic conservatives and moderate Republicans outsized influence over what legislation can pass. Senator Mitch McConnell, in a power-sharing arrangement with the Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, remains a force to be reckoned with. What will this balance of power mean for the new Administration? David Remnick poses this question to Jane Mayer, who has reported on McConnell?s tenure as a political operator, and to Evan Osnos, who covered Biden?s campaign and wrote a biography of the new President.

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Can the Biden Administration Lead a Revolution to Avert Catastrophic Climate Change?

On his first day in office, President Biden signed seventeen executive orders, including orders for the United States to rejoin the Paris climate agreement; to cancel the building of the Keystone XL oil pipeline; and to impose new restrictions on emissions, drilling, and many other threats to the environment. During Biden?s campaign, he promised a climate-change revolution. Two-thirds of the American public expresses support for government action on global warming, Democrats now control both houses of Congress, and activists are making significant headway in the fossil-fuel-divestment movement and other actions. Bill McKibben joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how to shift the Zeitgeist and save the planet.
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President Trump?s Last Stand

After the President incited a shocking attack against the Capitol, members of Congress made the unprecedented decision to impeach him a second time?during his last week in office. But as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to assume office, the threat of violence hovers over the Inauguration, and Washington seems girded for warfare. David Remnick talks with The New Yorker?s Washington correspondent Susan B. Glasser about the response from Congress, and with Luke Mogelson, who reported from inside the Capitol as it was stormed by the violent mob.

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Big Tech Turns on Trump

In late 2019, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of justice. This week, the President was impeached a second time, for inciting the January 6th insurrection against the government. Perhaps as significantly, several tech companies, including the biggest social-media platforms, have severed ties with the President, suspending or eliminating his accounts, and many of the country?s largest corporations have halted donations to the Republican members of Congress who objected to certifying the election of Joe Biden. Sheelah Kolhatkar joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss Big Tech?s new opposition to Trump?s rhetoric and the role that social-media platforms play in government.

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Lawrence Wright on How the Pandemic Response Went So Wrong

The first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine mark what we hope will be the beginning of the end of the global pandemic. The speed of vaccine development has been truly unprecedented, but this breakthrough is taking place at a moment when the U.S. death toll has also reached a new peak?over three thousand per day. How was the response to such a clear danger mismanaged so tragically? The New Yorker staff writer Lawrence Wright?who has reported on Al Qaeda and the Church of Scientology?has followed the story of the pandemic unfolding in the United States since the first lockdowns in March. Wright walks David Remnick through key moments of decision-making in the Trump White House: from the response to the first reports of a virus to botched mask mandates and testing rollouts, up through the emergency-use authorization of the vaccine. The Trump Administration bears much responsibility for the bungled response to the coronavirus pandemic, but Wright also finds ample evidence of larger, systemic breakdown. ?The magnitude of our failure,? he tells David Remnick, ?is unparalleled.?

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Democrats Take the Senate, and a Mob Storms the Capitol

On January 6th, pro-Trump fanatics stormed the Capitolgalvanized by the President?s claims that the 2020 election had been stolen. That day, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff were declared the victors of their respective Senate run-off races against Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, two champions of Trump?s incendiary theoriesCharles Bethea, a New Yorker staff writer based in Atlanta, joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss whether this is the end of an era or just the beginning.

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The Republican Rift in Georgia

In the past month, a fracture has opened up in the G.O.P. between those who grudgingly accept Joe Biden?s win and those who falsely claim that the election was rigged. In Georgia, supporters of Donald Trump have turned on Republican election officials?in some cases, with threats of violence. The Atlanta-based staff writer Charles Bethea explains why this rift is dangerous for Republicans. Georgia?s two incumbent Senate seats are up for grabs in a runoff election in January; the G.O.P. needs to retain at least one to maintain its majority and to give Mitch McConnell near-veto power over the Biden agenda. But the more that the President and his followers attack the election, the less likely Republican voters are to turn out to vote?which would create an advantage for the Democratic Senate hopefuls. Bethea spoke with Gabe Sterling, an election official in Georgia; Lin Wood, an attorney who is fuelling conspiracy theories; and voters at a Trump rally in Valdosta.

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The Rise and Collapse of the Grand Old Party

The Republican and Democratic Parties can seem like permanent institutions, but their agendas today bear little resemblance to what they once stood for. Political parties have repeatedly died out in American politics, often after periods of instability and infighting. [Jelani Cobb]( joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how drastically the two major parties have changed over time, and whether Trumpism has wrecked the G.O.P.

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Abigail Spanberger and Ayanna Pressley on the Democratic Rift

In November, when the Democratic Party lost seats in the House and a hoped-for victory in the Senate fizzled, centrist Democrats were quick to blame left-leaning progressives. Rhetoric about democratic socialism and defunding the police, they said, had scared away moderate voters, who rejected Donald Trump but voted for Republicans down ballot. Abigail Spanberger, who represents the conservative Seventh Congressional District of Virginia, made that argument on a post-election call with fellow House members which was then leaked to the press. She tells David Remnick that the Party cannot achieve anything without bipartisan dealmaking?however unwelcome it may be to progressives. But Ayanna Pressley, who represents the liberal Seventh Congressional District of Massachusetts, doesn?t buy it. In order to prove Democrats? value to voters, she says, the Party must stand up for ideals and not seek compromise. Pressley feels that a sufficiently populist approach to pandemic relief, for example, can sway Republican voters. ?We know, before the pandemic, [many] families didn?t have four hundred dollars saved to weather a disruptive life event,? she points out. ?And I?m sure many of those families were Republicans. So the ultimate persuasion tool is impact.?

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Dianne Feinstein and the Perils of an Aging Leadership

In January, Joe Biden will become the oldest President in U.S. history. Of the leaders in the other branches, the youngest is Chief Justice John Roberts, who is sixty-five. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is seventy-eight, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is eighty. The unsteady handling of the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett by the eighty-seven-year-old Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has raised alarm among some Party members and progressive advocacy groups, who say it is time for her to retire. Jane Mayer joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the generational divide in American politics and what can be done about it.

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Atul Gawande on Taming the Coronavirus

Can a vaccine be distributed fairly? What will be the impact of a large number of people not taking it?as they say they won?t? Atul Gawande, a New Yorker staff writer who was recently appointed to President-elect Joe Biden?s COVID-19 task force, walks David Remnick through some of the challenges of this pivotal moment. F.D.A. approval of at least one vaccine is expected imminently, but hospitalizations are still rising rapidly around the country, and Gawande is concerned that news of an approval could lead to more irresponsible behavior. ?If, once people start getting vaccinated, they start throwing the masks away and you can?t get them to do social distancing,? he said, ?then you?re really relying on vaccination as the sole prong of the strategy.? More than forty per cent of people polled say they are reluctant to take the new vaccines, but Gawande suspects that the real number of resisters may be much smaller. ?Part of the reason it?s good that health-care workers would go first is [that] . . . health-care workers are everywhere. Which means we?re all going to know people who got vaccinated, and we?re going to see that they did all right.?

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Can Joe Biden Repair America?s Reputation Abroad?

Over the past four years, the Trump Administration has gutted the State Department, antagonized America?s foreign allies, expressed admiration for authoritarians, broken key treaties and accords, and stoked conflicts all over the world. It now falls to Joe Biden?s foreign-policy team to rebuild diplomatic relationships and reassert American leadership abroadSusan B. Glasser joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the legacy of Donald Trump?s foreign policy, and what Biden can do to counteract it.

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The Fight to Turn Georgia Blue

This month, Georgia flipped: its voters picked a Democrat for President for the first time since Bill Clinton?s first-term election. To a significant degree, Charles Bethea says, this was owing to political organizing among Black voters; after all, Donald Trump still received approximately seventy per cent of the white vote. Bethea tells David Remnick about the political evolution of the state, and he speaks with two Democratic organizers: Nsé Ufot, the C.E.O. of the New Georgia Project, and Royce Reeves, Sr., a city commissioner in Cordele, Georgia.

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How You Can Help Restore American Democracy

In the weeks since Election Day, Trump has refused to concede defeat, fired his Secretary of Defense, ordered his Attorney General to investigate specious claims of voter fraud, and stoked conspiracy theories that the election was somehow fraudulent. Are his actions the flailing response of a sore loser, or an attempt at an authoritarian power grab? Academics and activists believe that in either case, ordinary citizens have more power than they think they doAndrew Marantz joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss what has been learned in recent years about successful nonviolent resistance movements, and how to take action to perpetuate a stable democracy.

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Jane Mayer on the G.O.P.?s Post-Trump Game

The President?s fantastical allegations about ?illegal ballots? are being indulged by quite a number of prominent Republicans in Washington, who have declined to acknowledge Joe Biden as President-elect. If Republicans in some key state legislatures go further and appoint electors who disregard their states? popular votes, the electoral chaos would be disastrous. To understand how the politicians may proceed, David Remnick spoke with Jane Mayer, who has written extensively about today?s GO.P. and the forces that drive it.

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A Nobel Laureate on the Politics of Fighting the Coronavirus

This week, the United States set new records for COVID-19 cases. Despite the rising numbers, the Trump Administration continues to downplay the severity of the pandemic. While Donald Trump refuses to concede the 2020 election, President-elect Joe Biden has assembled a task force to help his Administration take immediate action to combat the coronavirus. Meanwhile, Pfizer has announced that it has developed a vaccine that may be more than ninety-per-cent effective against the coronavirus. Harold E. Varmus, a Nobel laureate and former director of the National Institutes of Health, joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss recent developments in the fight against the coronavirus, and what to expect from the year ahead.

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The Trump Administration?s Chaotic Attack on the Undocumented

Donald Trump launched his Presidential campaign on the issue of immigration, and after his Inauguration, arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement increased sharply. David Remnick talks with the staff writer Jonathan Blitzer, who has been covering Trump?s immigration policy all along. ?The Trump Administration got smarter over the last four years,? he tells David Remnick. Rather than the ?high drama? of executive orders, they began implementing rules and regulation changes across multiple departments that are much harder to undo. Blitzer explains that the cumulative impact fundamentally alters how the government thinks about immigration.

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The Agonizing Election of 2020

In the weeks before Election Day, Joe Biden was polling strongly in Florida and Texas, and Donald Trump?s approval rating was foundering as the pandemic grew steadily worse. But the President did well in traditionally red states, and, as the votes were counted, excited talk of a ?Blue Wave? was replaced by speculation about whether a ?Blue Wall? in the Midwestern battleground states could enable Biden to eke out a victory. Jelani CobbJane Mayer, and Evan Osnos join Dorothy Wickenden to discuss what to expect as the two parties confront the difficulties of governing an ever more deeply divided country.

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Remaking the Federal Courts

Donald Trump has changed the ideological cast of our entire federal court system, appointing the most appellate-court judges in a single term since Jimmie Carter, as well as three conservative Justices to the Supreme Court. Jeannie Suk Gersen, a contributing writer and a professor at Harvard Law School, unpacks the complicated question of court-packing. Joe Biden?s cautious engagement with the strategy, she thinks, is smart politics. The Supreme Court?s members ?do not want to see Congress mess with the number of Justices on the Court or the terms,? she tells David Remnick. ?So they now also understand . . . that they?re being watched with an idea that the institution can change without their being able to control it.?

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A Voters? Guide to Three Key Swing States

Despite the coronavirus pandemic and numerous voter-suppression efforts, some seventy million ballots have already been cast this fall. As Election Day nears, Dorothy Wickenden is joined by New Yorker writers to talk about three states where the vote is particularly contentious. Peter Slevin discusses Wisconsin, where the Democrats have learned from Hillary Clinton?s mistakesE. Tammy Kim calls in from Montana, where a very close Senate race is in play; and Charles Bethea, in Atlanta, describes the Democratic revolt against Republican efforts to disenfranchise voters of color.

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The Future of Trumpism

Nicholas Lemann?s ?The Republican Identity Crisis After Trump? explores what will happen to the movement Donald Trump created among Republicans. In his 2016 campaign, he ran as a populist insurgent against Wall Street, ?élites,? and the Republican Party itself?mobilizing voters against their traditional leadership. But, in office, he has governed largely according to the Party?s priorities. If Trump loses next month?s election, what will become of the movement he created? Lemann spoke with David Remnick about three possible scenarios for Republicans.

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Ilana Glazer?s ?Cheat Sheet for the Voting Booth?

Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson created ?Broad City? in the early days of the Obama Administration, and their portrait of young, progressive slackers in New York City struck a nerve with millennial and Gen Z viewers. With the election of Donald Trump, Glazer turned her focus to politics. In her Web series ?Cheat Sheet for the Voting Booth,? she interviews celebrities who have personal connections to swing states. Her goal is to make young people feel the urgency of voting, and to introduce them to down-ballot races where they live. Ilana Glazer joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss her current projects, and how to persuade the country?s biggest voting bloc that they can effect sweeping change.

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Elizabeth Warren

At the 2020 New Yorker Festival, this month, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Elizabeth Warren joined Andrew Marantz to talk about the Presidential race and how Joe Biden should lead if he wins the election. Biden often speaks about bipartisanship as a cherished value that he would restore to Washington, but Ocasio-Cortez is dubious. ?Bipartisanship to young people seems like this kind of vintage fantasy, like it seems like people are yearning for this time that I?ve never lived through,? she remarks. ?Bipartisanship got us the Iraq war . . . [and] bank bailouts. And we very rarely see the results of bipartisanship yielding in racial justice, yielding in economic justice for working families, yielding in improvements to health care. . . . Just because something is bipartisan doesn?t mean it?s good or good for you.?

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Amy Coney Barrett and the Future of Abortion Rights

This week, the Senate held confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative judge who clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia. If she is appointed, the Supreme Court will include six justices selected by Republicans, which could determine the fate of Roe V. Wade. Margaret Talbot, a New Yorker staff writer, joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss Barrett's record on abortion and birth control, the future of women's reproductive rights in the United States, and what strategy pro-choice Democrats should pursue in the coming years. 

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Anthony Fauci, Then and Now

At the moment that Donald Trump was leaving Walter Reed Hospital, not yet recovered from a case of COVID-19, Dr. Anthony Fauci sat down with Michael Specter to discuss the coronavirus and its impact on America. For the President?and those of us counting on a vaccine to miraculously deliver us back to normalcy?Fauci offers a reality check. ?Let?s say we have a vaccine and it?s seventy per cent effective. But only sixty per cent of the people [are likely to] get vaccinated. The vaccine will greatly help us, but it?s not going to eliminate mask-wearing, avoiding crowds, and things like that.? Specter, who covered Fauci?s work in public health during the AIDS crisis, asks him about his relationship with activists in the nineteen-eighties and today. ?The [AIDS] activists never threatened us in a serious way, they wanted to gain our attention,? he says. ?Their motivations were all pure.? Opponents of masks and lockdown, he believes, intend to do harm. ?The threats that we get now are real. Threats on life, harassment of family. . . . That requires our needing security.?  


Michael Specter?s audio biography ?Fauci? is available from Pushkin.

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Can the Economy Be Saved?

After the coronavirus lockdown, unemployment soared and the stock market crashed. Congress quickly passed the CARES{:.small} Act, and the Federal Reserve took action to shore up the economy, averting a collapse of the financial system. But millions of Americans are still unemployed, and another wave of business closures looms. John Cassidy joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the economic and political response to the coronavirus pandemic thus far, and what can be done to restore stability to the economy and to Americans? lives.

##More on the Coronavirus

To protect American lives and revive the economy, Donald Trump and Jared Kushner should listen to Anthony Fauci rather than trash him. We should look to students to conceive of appropriate school-reopening plans. It is not too late to ask what they really want. A pregnant pediatrician on what children need during the crisis. Trump is helping tycoons who have donated to his reëlection campaign exploit the pandemic to maximize profits. Meet the high-finance mogul in charge of our economic recovery. The coronavirus is likely to reshape architecture. What kinds of space are we willing to live and work in now?
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The Election, as Seen from Swing States

Joe Biden leads the Presidential race in Pennsylvania by around ten per cent, according to most polls, but Eliza Griswold says you wouldn?t know it on the ground. Republicans in the state have organized a huge registration drive in recent years, and, while Griswold was driving to Biden?s working-class birthplace of Scranton, she saw Trump signs blanketing the lawns and roads. Peter Slevin, reporting from Wisconsin, tells David Remnick that Democrats there organized early, to avoid the mistake that Hillary Clinton made in 2016 of taking the state for granted. Even so, Biden?s campaign has declined to do risky in-person events, but the Trump campaign, until recently, has proceeded as if coronavirus had never happened.

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The Election Wars of 2020

On Tuesday, Donald Trump and Joe Biden met for their first Presidential debate. For ninety minutes, Trump repeatedly shouted over and attacked both his opponent and the debate moderator, Chris Wallace. He also challenged the legitimacy of the election, and warned, ?this is not going to end well.? Evan Osnos joins Dorothy Wickenden to talk about how political discourse has changed in recent decades, and whether Joe Biden's vision of a return to ?normalcy? is possible.

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Can a Newcomer Unseat Lindsey Graham?

Jaime Harrison may seem like a long shot to become a South Carolina senator: he is a Black Democrat who grew up on food stamps in public housing, and he has never held elected public office. But a Quinnipiac poll ties him with Lindsay Graham?each has the support of forty-eight per cent of likely voters. Harrison is not exactly a progressive upstart candidate: he?s spent much of his career as a lobbyist, and has worked in the office of House Majority Whip James Clyburn. ?I?ve seen the power of how good public servants can really address the issues of what people deal with,? Harrison tells David Remnick. ?The worst thing you can do as a public servant is to betray the trust of the people that you represent.? For Harrison, Graham?s decision to support a fast-track nomination to the Supreme Court proves that ?his word is worthless.?

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How Ruth Bader Ginsburg?s Death Is Changing the 2020 Election

Last week, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, at the age of eighty-seven. Although early voting has already begun in several states, President Donald Trump and his Republican colleagues immediately announced their intention to fill Ginsburg?s seat. Jane Mayer and Jeffrey Toobin join Dorothy Wickenden to discuss Ginsburg?s legacy, how the fight for her seat will affect the 2020 election, and the key cases that the Court is likely to hear in the coming term.

##Read More About the 2020 Election

Can Joe Biden win the Presidency based on a promise of generational change? The fall and rise of Kamala Harris. When a sitting President threatens to delay a sacrosanct American ritual like an election, you should listen. To understand the path Donald Trump has taken to the 2020 election, look at what he has provided the executive class. What happens if Trump fights the election results? The refusal by Mitch McConnell to rein in Trump is looking riskier than ever. Sign up for our election newsletter for insight and analysis from our reporters and columnists.
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An Election in Peril

This Presidential race is a battle for the soul and the future of the country?on this much, both parties agree?and yet the pitfalls in the election process itself are vast. David Remnick runs through some of the risks to your vote with a group of staff writers: Sue Halpern on the possibility of hacking by malign actors; Steve Coll on the contention around mail-in voting and the false suspicions being raised by the President; Jeffrey Toobin on the prospect of an avalanche of legal challenges that could delay the outcome and create a cascade of uncertainty; and Jelani Cobb on the danger of violence in the election?s aftermath. 

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Are Voters Asking the Wrong Questions About the 2020 Elections?

In an election year, media coverage focusses overwhelmingly on federal elections?races for the Senate, House, and, above all, the Presidency. But, in November, voters across the country will also cast their votes for governors and state legislators, officials who exercise enormous power over the lives of their constituents. Daniel Squadron, a former state senator and the co-founder of Future Now, joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss what to expect from key state races in 2020 and their power to transform the country.

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What to Do with a Confederate Monument?

Across the South and well beyond, cities and states have been removing their Confederate monuments, recognizing their power as symbols of America?s foundational racism. In the town of Easton, Maryland, in front of the picturesque courthouse, there?s a statue known as the Talbot Boys. It depicts a young soldier holding a Confederate battle flag, and it honors the men who crossed over to fight for secession. It?s the last such monument in Maryland, outside of a battlefield or a graveyard. Casey Cep grew up nearby, and she?s watched as the town has awakened to the significance of the statue. Five years ago, when a resolution to remove it came before the county council, the vote was 5?0 opposing removal. But, during a summer of reckoning with police violence and structural racism, the statue came up for a vote again. Is time finally catching up with the Talbot Boys?

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Jiayang Fan on Navigating Her Mother?s Illness While Becoming a Target for Chinese Nationalists Online

Jiayang Fan immigrated to the United States from China at age seven. Her mother, who had been a doctor, cleaned houses in Greenwich, Connecticut, so that Jiayang could attend good schools. In 2011, Jiayang?s mother was diagnosed with A.L.S., and Jiayang oversaw her care as her condition worsened. This year, when the COVID{:.small}-19 lockdown threatened to separate her mother from the health aides who kept her alive, Jiayang spoke out on social media. In response, she received a torrent of threats against her life and that of her mother. Jiayang Fan joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how she and her mother struggled to adjust to American culture, and how she became a target for anti-American sentiments in China.

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Bette Midler and the Screenwriter Paul Rudnick on ?Coastal Elites?

In the new film ?Coastal Elites,? Bette Midler plays a New Yorker of a certain type: a retired teacher who lives on the Upper West Side, reads the New York Times with Talmudic attention, and is driven more than half mad by Donald Trump. So much so that one day she picks a fight in a coffee shop with a guy wearing a red MAGA hat, and her monologue takes place when she?s in police custody. The role isn?t too much of a stretch: she tells David Remnick about a long-ago dinner at the Trumps? apartment that she recalls as a nightmare, and, just days after this interview, Midler tweeted some ill-advised comments about Melania Trump?s accent that she had to apologize for. Paul Rudnick wrote ?Coastal Elites? as a series of monologues to be performed at the Public Theatre, but seeing no avenue to perform it during the pandemic, he reconceived of it as a film for HBO, starring big names like Kaitlyn Dever, Dan Levy, Sarah Paulson, and Issa Rae. And while he?s sad about the state of live theatre, Rudnick has no regrets about taking the show to television: ?You actually got closer than you would if it had been staged live in the theatre,? he says. ?You have the best possible seat in the house for a Bette Midler performance.?

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Can Ron DeSantis Deliver a Victory in Florida to Donald Trump?

Florida, with twenty-nine electoral votes, is one of the most sought-after states in any election. It went for Bush in 2000 and 2004, Obama in 2008 and 2012, and Trump in 2016. Dexter Filkins joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss continuing efforts by the G.O.P. to suppress the Democratic vote, the pivotal role the state will play in the election this fall, and how the aftermath of 2020 could be more chaotic than the contested election of 2000.

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Would an Election Victory Be Joe Biden?s F.D.R. Moment?

Joe Biden has been playing it safe during the coronavirus pandemic, but Evan Osnos got the chance to sit down with the nominee in person. It was too hot to sit outside, but the campaign staff didn?t want an outsider in Biden?s home, so the interview took place in a small house on the property that Biden?s late mother stayed in. In a wide-ranging conversation, Biden compares his position?should he win?to that of Franklin Roosevelt: taking office during a disaster, he argues, he would have an opportunity to effect a hugely ambitious agenda, but driven by pragmatism rather than ideology. (He was not comparing himself to Roosevelt, he hastened to add.) While the country is ever more partisan, Biden describes his centrism and his propensity for off-the-cuff remarks as an advantage. ?The good news is the bad news,? he told Osnos. ?Everybody knows me, and you guys know me, the good and bad. . . . It?s kind of hard to pin a label on someone that?s inconsistent with who they are. To make me out to be a revolutionary, it?s awful hard to do. Conversely, it?s awful hard to make me out to be a right-wing, very conservative Democrat.?

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Trump?s Convention and the Allure of the Politics of Fear

Despite the historic chaos of recent months, Donald Trump?s message in the 2020 campaign remains largely unchanged. He continues to focus on ?law and order? in the streets, the dangerous agenda of the ?radical left,? and protecting the country from nefarious outsiders. That message has proved remarkably effective at securing the allegiance of his party. Can Joe Biden convince enough voters that ?hope is more powerful than fear?? Peter Slevin joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the Republican National Convention and Trump?s strategy for winning a second term.

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Everyone Knew Who Shot Ahmaud Arbery. Why Did the Killers Walk Free?

It has been six months since Ahmaud Arbery, a young Black man, was shot by three white men while he was out for a Sunday jog near his childhood home. The video of the killing, taken by one of the men who participated in it, could be said to have kindled the blaze that ignited after the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. 

There was no mystery to be solved in Arbery?s killing. It happened in broad daylight, and the men who did it were on the scene when police arrived. But the killers walked free, and no one was arrested for seventy-four days?until after the video was made public and caused a scandal. What, exactly, were prosecutors thinking? Caroline Lester spoke with Arbery?s mother, a local reporter, lawyers, and a district attorney to understand what happened in those seventy-four days. His case, she finds, highlights a fundamental problem for criminal-justice reform: we may change the laws that govern policing, but those laws have to be vigorously enforced. And district attorneys may have little incentive to do so.

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The Democratic Convention, Online and United

This week, the Democratic Party presented its first-ever virtual nominating Convention. Over three nights, a host of speakers?from establishment Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, to progressive figures like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to moderate Republicans like John Kasich and Colin Powell?promoted a big-tent movement to defeat Donald Trump in November. John Cassidy joins Eric Lach to discuss what the Democratic Convention tells us about the general election, and what to look forward to from the Republican Convention next week.

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Isabel Wilkerson on America?s Caste System

In this moment of historical reckoning, many Americans are being introduced to concepts like intersectionality, white fragility, and anti-racism. Isabel Wilkerson, the author of the best-selling book ?The Warmth of Other Suns,? is introducing a little-discussed concept into our national conversation: caste. As she researched the Jim Crow system in the South, she realized that ?every aspect of life was so tightly controlled and scripted and restricted that race was an insufficient term to capture the depth and organized repression that people were living under.? She explains to David Remnick that ?the only word that was sufficient was ?caste.? ? The United States, Wilkerson argues, is a rigid social hierarchy that depends on a psychological as well as a legal system of enforcement. Her new book is ?Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents,? which has already been hailed as a modern classic. She says that ?we need a new framework for understanding the divisions and how we got to where we are.?

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Kamala Harris and the Future of the Democratic Party

On Tuesday, Joe Biden announced his running mate: California Senator and former presidential candidate Kamala Harris. There had been talk of a potential Biden-Harris ticket going back to last spring. But the choice cemented Harris? place as an architect of the future of the Democratic Party. Dana Goodyear joins Eric Lach to discuss Kamala Harris?s political past, and what she?ll bring to the presidential ticket.

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The Documentary ICE Doesn?t Want You to See

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has been given a broad mandate to round up undocumented immigrants. The agency is infamously unwelcoming to journalists, but two filmmakers managed to get unprecedented access to its employees and detention facilities. Christina Clusiau and Shaul Schwarz discuss how they got this closeup look at the agency as it developed ever-harsher policies designed to deter immigrants. Schwarz tells Jonathan Blitzer, who covers immigration for the magazine, that ?if [ICE] can make life difficult enough, if [it] can send these messages . . . that this is the hell you?re going to get, then [they?ll] make these people leave.?  


The documentary, ?Immigration Nation,? is available on Netflix.

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Donald Trump Declares War on TikTok

Last week, President Trump declared his intention to ?ban? TikTok, a social-media platform with eighty million daily users in the United States. TikTok is a product of the Chinese tech company ByteDance, and some privacy activists have raised concerns that the company may share user data with the Chinese government. Sheelah Kolhatkar joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss what the controversy reveals about U.S.-Chinese relations and the changing politics around Big Tech.

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