The Takeaway

Politics with Amy Walter: The Next President of the United States

Not immediately knowing which candidate won the White House has long been a reality of a world changed by COVID-19. What campaigns, pundits, and pollsters failed to predict was the distance that would separate the results from the expectations. Tim Alberta, chief political correspondent at Politico, Sahil Kapur, national political reporter for NBC News, and Clare Malone, senior politics writer at FiveThirtyEight, analyze the incomplete election results and what Congress could look like when the dust settles. 

President Trump has consistently and falsely asserted that losing reelection would mean that the White House was stolen from him. Meanwhile, election officials across the country have been working diligently to maintain free and fair elections. This year, their jobs include responding to a pandemic and refuting conspiracy theories. Election officials from across the country describe how Election Day 2020 went and how things could improve for future elections. 

As Joe Biden gets closer to winning the electoral college, the Trump campaign is taking to the courts in an attempt to challenge the results. In the past few days, states like Michigan, Georgia, and Pennsylvania have all seen lawsuits calling into question their process of counting ballots, though there’s no evidence supporting the president’s claims of voter fraud. While some of the lawsuits have already been dismissed, others are still in play. Toluse Olorunnipa, a White House reporter for the Washington Post, breaks down the Trump campaign’s recent legal action.

In the Trump era, political polarization has reached a level not seen since the Civil War. Though this polarization didn’t start with President Trump’s campaign and subsequent administration, it has brought the deepening divide to the surface–and to the ballot box–with voter turnout this week reaching record numbers. Lilliana Mason, professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland and author of “Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity,”walks us through the widening political divide in the U.S. and what it means for how the country moves forward, regardless of who wins the 2020 election.

Amy’s closing thoughts:

The political profession. No other career as prosaic has been glamorized more. In movies and on TV, everyone who works for or as a politician is beautiful, smart, and ambitious. All are doing super important work that is changing the world. Even the interns are drafting amendments that protect our way of life.

In real life, of course, politics is messy. And, more important, boring. For every election night balloon drop victory party, there are a million days filled with the crushingly tedious work of voter contact and fundraising and town hall meetings filled with cranky and angry constituents.

But, as we learned this week, it is the people who do the non-glamorous work, those who spend almost every single day of their entire career in relative ambiguity, who help keep our democratic institutions steady. I’m talking about the elected officials, poll workers, and office staff, who ensured that this election – an election taking place in the middle of a health pandemic and with record turnout – was conducted as fairly, smoothly, and judiciously as possible. They are doing this work under great duress and stress. They continue to do their job even as the president of the United States – without any evidence – takes to the White House briefing room to question their integrity.

When the election is over, these folks aren’t going to get a sweet cable TV gig or their own podcast. Instead, they are going to go back to their offices and prepare for the next election.

For all of you who are cynical or anxious about the sturdiness of the guardrails protecting our democratic institutions, look no further than the local officials in charge of voting. They are not bowing to pressure from the president. They are not abandoning their posts for fear of political reprisal. They are doing their jobs. And, doing them well. 

At the end of the day, it is regular people who are responsible for our democracy. And, the regular people are saving it.”

The Takeaway

Politics with Amy Walter: Final Thoughts Before Election Day

The ongoing campaign cycle was met by a number of twists that couldn’t have been predicted. A consequential presidential race, the pandemic, an economic downturn, and the killing of George Floyd by police. As the election cycle comes to an end, Heather Long, Economics Correspondent at The Washington Post, Maya King, Politics Reporter at Politico and Clare Malone, Senior Politics Writer at FiveThirtyEight analyze the last year of politics and dissect what it could mean for Tuesday’s outcome.

A standard election cycle would’ve meant interacting with voters at conventions, town halls, and canvassing events. As the pandemic upended traditional forms of campaigning, we’ve spent the last few months engaging with students, teachers, small business owners, religious leaders, and individuals from across the U.S. They update us on how things have changed since we last spoke and what hopes, if any, they have riding on Election Day. 

The most recent national polls shows President Trump is trailing Vice President Joe Biden by almost nine points. Four years ago, pundits and politicians relied on polls that failed to account for counties that should’ve served as warning signs for Democrats. This time around there are fewer undecided and third-party voters who could swing us towards a surprise. Dave Wasserman, House Editor for The Cook Political Report, describes his reporting on key bellwether counties that could determine the outcome of the election. 

President Trump has spent the last few months maligning the voting process and attempting to cast doubt on the outcome of the election. He’s made a number of misleading comments regarding absentee voting and has incorrectly stated that the process of counting ballots should end on November 3rd. Grace Panetta, Senior Politics Reporter Covering Elections and Voting for Business Insider, describes what we can expect on election night and beyond. 

The Takeaway

Politics with Amy Walter: In Pursuit of a Coronavirus Vaccine

While many countries have curbed their total number of coronavirus cases, the US has recorded more than four and a half million, and more than 160,000 deaths. Inadequate national leadership has caused one of the easiest and simplest solutions to curbing the spread of the disease, mask wearing, to become the latest front in the culture wars 

The White House has spread not only conflicting messages about the severity of the virus but also conspiracy theories about the science and the solutions to stopping the pandemic. 

With no certainty to the end of the pandemic, many are relying on a vaccine as the only way back to the way things were but even a vaccine comes with its own set of issues. Finding a way to distribute hundreds of millions of doses of a vaccine in addition to convincing Americans that it is safe and effective could be an uphill battle. Communicating transparently is especially important with communities of color who have been disproportionately hurt by the coronavirus.  


Umair Irfan, Staff Writer at Vox

Carolyn Johnson, Science Reporter at The Washington Post

Dr. Jesse Goodman, Professor at Georgetown University and the Former Chief Scientist at the Food and Drug Administration

Gary A. Puckrein, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Minority Quality Forum

Things That Go Boom

S3 E5 (The Wrong Apocalypse) – Democracy! (Yawn)

As the US reckons with systemic racism and a less-than-democratic past, China is doubling down on its authoritarian ways. Meanwhile, research on the health of democracy from across the globe indicates the patient is not well.

We trace China’s rise from the 1990s, when American pop music held a place alongside patriotic education, to its more recent political assertiveness– not to mention its chokehold on civil rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. As China moves to assert itself on the world stage, is democracy losing?

GUESTS: Connie Mei Pickart, writer and educator; Yascha Mounk, associate professor at Johns Hopkins University and senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund


How the World Views American-Style Democracy, Eurasia Group Foundation.

Nationalism Ruined My Chinese Friendships, Connie Mei Pickart.

In Hong Kong, Defiance Gone Quiet, The New York Times.

Things That Go Boom

S3 Trailer (The Wrong Apocalypse)

Could the rise of China and Russia spell the end of the US as the dominant world power? Are we on an irreversible path toward military confrontation? Are we prepared for life in a multilateral world?

Military spending is growing, and the Pentagon says it’s in service of something called “great power competition” — but are the biggest threats to US power military? Or, something else. 

This next season of Things That Go Boom will explore how our national security has refocused on threats that require traditional military might — things like carriers and fighter jets — at a time when some of the biggest threats to our security are silent, agile, economic, and even viral. We’ll ask if our main adversaries — Russia and China — are really a threat, and we’ll examine just how strong, or weak, a position the US holds in this new geopolitical reality.