The 2020 election is not the 2016 election. That is worth establishing from the off. Donald Trump is the incumbent. Bashing the status quo and running as an outsider when you are president is much harder.
Joe Biden is not Hillary Clinton. He is viewed more favourably than she was before the least election. There are also fewer undecided voters and third party candidates are polling less than 2016.
All of these are reasons to believe that the poll lead enjoyed by Mr Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, is firmer than the one Ms Clinton had before her defeat four years ago.
But with that said, this too must be pointed out: Mr Biden’s lead in the polls does not guarantee victory. The race is not done and dusted. His win is not written in stone.
Mr Biden may well secure the landslide predicted by many. He may win by whisker. Or – still a possibility – Mr Trump, against the odds, could get a second term.
If the president does that there will be a slew of “the signs were always there” articles. Given this, perhaps it is worth dwelling on what those signs could be. Here are four of them.
The 2020 US election is less than a month away, but the coronavirus pandemic has thrown many aspects of the race into uncertainty.
The virus has already dramatically affected the running of the election, including the chaos caused by Donald Trump being diagnosed with Covid-19.
It is also unclear what election day itself will look like, given the risk of catching the virus by voting in person.
A record number of people are expected to vote before November 3 by opting for postal votes. Election experts suggest this could mean the result may not be declared on election night, but may take several days – or even weeks – to emerge.
With the coronavirus pandemic expected to impact public life well into the autumn, the 2020 election is likely to go down in history as one of the most unconventional US presidential races ever held.
Despite the uncertainty, there are some aspects of the election process that are enshrined in the US constitution.
Here is everything we know about how the race will play out.
The latest revelations about Russia and Iran obtaining American voters’ registration records throws a bombshell twist into the presidential campaign less than two weeks before the election.
The announcement by the US Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, and FBI director Christopher Wray made clear that foreign powers were using the data to send threatening emails to voters and to undermine confidence in the election.
The fact that these two powers are trying to shape the outcome of the US presidential election should surprise nobody. In fact, back in July US intelligence agencies publicly warned that Russia, Iran and China were all seeking to meddle in the presidential race.
US intelligence agencies offered a second, detailed briefing in August with a wealth of detail on who the foreign actors were targeting and how they were for doing so.
During the briefing William Evanina, director of the US National Counterintelligence and Security Centre, said the US believed that China hoped that Donald Trump would lose, because Beijing saw the president as “unpredictable”.
Mr Evanina said that China had grown increasingly critical of the Trump administration because of its hostile actions against Beijing – from blaming China for the coronavirus pandemic to criticising the country’s authoritarian crackdown in Hong Kong and pushing allies not to use its 5G technology.
On Iran, the counterintelligence director said that the country was working against Mr Trump’s re-election because of his hardline “pressure” campaign against Tehran.
“We assess that Iran seeks to undermine US democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections,” he said.
“Iran’s efforts along these lines probably will focus on online influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-US content.”
By contrast US intelligence assessed that Russia was working to denigrate Mr Trump’s Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, because of his policies on Ukraine during the Obama administration.
Mr Evanina said the measures were consistent with Moscow’s public criticism of Mr Biden while in office, when he supported Ukraine’s autonomy from Russia.
“Some Kremlin-linked actors are also seeking to boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television,” Mr Evanina said.
But such tactics were going on well before 2020. In America’s 2018 midterm elections, the US Justice Department actually brought a criminal case over alleged Russian interference.
The charges were against Elena Khusyaynova, a 44-year-old Russian-based accountant who was accused of taking part in a $10 million scheme on targeted social media ads and web postings intended “to sow division and discord in the US political system”.
The complaint alleges the effort targeting the 2018 election was part of a broader campaign dubbed Project Lakhta, with the Russian Internet Research Agency at the centre of the endeavours.
During the 2018 races, “Russia, and other foreign countries, including China and Iran, conducted influence activities and messaging campaigns… to promote their strategic interests”, said Dan Coats, who was Director of National Intelligence at the time.
Mr Coats offered little detail, but said officials found that Russia continued to use social media, fake personas and Russian state media outlets in the hope of polarising US voters.
And of course there was Russia’s infamous 2016 election meddling campaign. Russia’s Internet Research Agency set up thousands of social media accounts designed to smear Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate.
In addition, Kremlin-backed figures hacked the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign officials and publicly released damaging emails at strategic points during the election campaign.
Moscow’s pervasive meddling attempts were thoroughly examined during a two-year federal investigation, which led to charges against 26 Russians and three Russian organisations.
Robert Mueller, the special counsel who led the probe, later said the findings on Russian interference “deserves the attention of every American”.
That warning was repeated during Wednesday night’s briefing, with FBI director Mr Wray urging voters: “Be thoughtful, careful and discerning consumers of information online.”
Iran and Russia are ready to pour fuel on the fire. That seems the unavoidable takeaway from the shock news that both powers have obtained US voter registration details.
The claim was made by two of the top figures in US intelligence in an unscheduled press conference at 7.30pm on Wednesday. The media was alerted just moments beforehand.
The briefing by John Ratcliffe, the US Director of National Intelligence, and Christopher Wray, the FBI director, lasted less than eight minutes.
No questions were taken. And yet the statement prompted so many, leaving viewers with both a deep sense of unease at what was happening and a lack of clarity about the scale of the problem.
Taken at face value, the statement makes a few things clear. First, that both Iran and Russia had been able to get their hands on information about registered voters.
Barack Obama unleashed a fierce attack on Donald Trump during his first in-person appearance on the campaign trail, mocking the US president’s tweeting of conspiracy theories, and dismissing his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The former president used a speech in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to repeatedly hammer his successor’s record in office with less than two weeks left before election day in America.
Many of Mr Obama’s critiques, delivered at a drive-in rally in front of 300 cars, centred on Mr Trump’s approach to coronavirus, the issue the Democrats are putting at the centre of their campaign to elect Joe Biden. Many beeped their horns in approval.
“Donald Trump isn’t suddenly going to protect all of us. He can’t even take the basic steps to protect himself,” Mr Obama said.
He added that his own administration “literally left the White House a pandemic play book” but “they probably used it to, I don’t know, prop up a wobbly table somewhere.”
FBI says Russia and Iran are attempting to influence the US election by obtaining American voters’ details
Iran is responsible for emails meant to intimidate American voters and sow unrest in multiple states, while Tehran and Moscow also obtained voter registration with the goal of interfering in the presidential election, US officials said at a rare news conference on Wednesday night – just two weeks before the vote.
The United States’ director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, announced that Iran specifically sent “spoofed” emails to Americans “designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest, and damage President Trump”.
He said Iran had also distributed a video that implied that people could send in fraudulent ballots, including from outside the United States.
Mr Ratcliffe said both Iran and Russia seek to use information obtained “to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion, sow chaos, and undermine confidence in American democracy”.
“These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries,” he said.
The announcement came after registered Democratic voters reported receiving personally addressed emails in the name of the Proud Boys armed militia group.
“You will vote for Trump on election day or we will come after you,” the emails said.
The voter-intimidation operation apparently used email addresses obtained from state voter registration lists, which include party affiliation and home addresses and can include email addresses and phone numbers.
Those addresses were then used in an apparently widespread targeted spamming operation.
The senders claimed they would know which candidate the recipient was voting for in the November 3 election, for which early voting is ongoing.
Mr Ratcliffe and US Federal Bureau of Investigation director Chris Wray said the US would impose costs on any foreign countries interfering in the 2020 US election.
Despite the Iranian and Russian actions, they said Americans could be confident that their vote would be counted.
Mr Ratcliffe and Mr Wray did not explain how the Russians and Iranians had obtained the voter information, or how the Russians might be using it.
Mr Wray stressed that US election systems remained safe and “resilient”.
“Rest assured that we are prepared for the possibility of actions by those hostile to democracy,” Mr Ratcliffe said.
Donald Trump and Joe Biden will face each other one last time before the US election with the final presidential debate on Thursday night.
The debate, at Belmont University in Nashville, offers the two candidates a final chance to make their cases to voters before November 3.
The first head-to-head between the pair was characterised by hostile exchanges and personal insults, with Mr Trump criticised for interrupting Mr Biden during his speaking slot.
Since then the US president has been hospitalised with coronavirus and made a theatrical return to the campaign trail. Millions of Americans have also cast their ballots in early voting, either in person or by mail.
Now that the 25th anniversary of the Million Man March is firmly in our collective rearview mirrors, let me reflect nostalgically about that great day, which was more than a year in the making for me.
It all began at a speech given by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan to an overflow crowd at New York’s Madison Square Garden in late 1993. At the conclusion of his address, the Minister made an unusual appeal. It was to the women present, which included, Dr. Betty Shabazz, the widow of Brother Malcolm X.
The Minister asked the women for “permission” to hold a series of rallies around the country, just for the brothers. His “men only” rallies would call Black men to account, to stand up and be the men Almighty God (Allah) intended us to be. To take responsibility for our duties as fathers, husbands and brothers.
Minister Farrakhan went on to Boston, and at one of his speeches, he said that Allah put it on his heart to call for a march, a march of 1 million Black men in Washington in 1995, to repent and to atone.
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land,” the Minister quoted 2 Chronicles, the seventh chapter and 14th verse. He repeated that verse often in speeches to packed audiences to men only, all over the country in the lead up to the march which was set to take place, not on a weekend, but on a Monday, Oct. 16, 1995.
As thrilled as I often become when I listen to the Minister speak, it was at his men’s only address at the D.C. Armory when I first recognized that the March was going to be really, really big!
After the lecture, charity was being collected, and the big donations were being acknowledged. “Thanks to the men from Andrews Air Force Base for a donation of $1,000,” the announcer said. Say what?!
I was shocked. You see Andrews (now officially Joint Base Andrews) is the super-secure military installation where the U.S. president’s and the official fleet of U.S. diplomatic aircraft is maintained. A delegation of men — all of whom carried the very highest security clearances just to be stationed there — a group of men assigned to that most elite military base in the country, were proud to make a sizeable donation to the cause, and importantly, were not ashamed to announce their affiliation publicly.
I knew then and there that the call for the Million Man March resonated proudly, not only in my heart, but in the hearts of Black men on every level, everywhere in these United States, and that the March was destined to be a crowning success.
Brothers were ready!
In addition to trumpeting my support for the March in the months to come in The Washington Informer, I was able to help explain the event in some white, corporate-owned media outlets as well: The Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor Radio, USA Today, and The Washington Post, among them. You see, this march, for the first time in more than 50 years, was built not only on the “body” of Black discontent, but it had a Black “head.”
“This demonstration for the first time was a ‘Black thing.’ It took hold via a new, all-Black infra-structure of financing, organization, and information dissemination,” I wrote in the pages of The Post on Oct. 8, 1995. Farrakhan was blessed by The Almighty.
“Rather than continue to lament that disparity, this march sought to change it by empowering a new grassroots Black leadership. It latched on to the same source of discontent that drove the now-defunct civil rights movement: unequal treatment of African Americans. But rather than challenge white leaders for control of the civil rights groups that whites helped found, the Black organizers of this march replaced the integrated head on the civil rights movement’s Black body with a Black head.”
It was the largest demonstration of Black solidarity in this nation’s history! It was 136 years to the day that John Brown and 21 others, including five Black men and three of his sons attacked the U.S. arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, lighting the fuse of the Civil War which would end in the abolishment of slavery.
On that brilliant October day in Washington in 1995, another fuse was lit, igniting the greatest, peaceful revolution in U.S. history. It was the beginning of the Third U.S. Reconstruction.
Long live the spirit of the Million Man March!
“The Supreme Court doesn’t have an army, and it has no power of the purse. Its power comes from the fact that the public accepts its decisions, even when it disagrees with them. The Supreme Court has of course always been a political institution, but if it’s going to retain its public legitimacy it can’t be seen as simply another wing of partisan politics. Supreme Court nominations have become far too politicized, but packing the Supreme Court weeks before a presidential election is different in kind. It’s not simply another stress test for our institutions — there’s a real risk it will break them. That is genuinely scary — not just for the Supreme Court, but for the basic functioning of our country and the rule of law.” — Alice Bannon, managing director, Brennan Center’s Democracy Program
The Trump administration and Senate leadership have spent the past four years cramming the Supreme Court and lower federal courts with ideologues intent on eradicating hard-fought civil rights and constitutional gains of the past few decades.
They’ve made no effort to respect the racial and gender diversity of our nation. Nearly 90% of his nominees to lifetime judicial appointments have been white and 76% of them are men — a reversal of a 30-year trend toward more diversity on the federal bench and erosion of judicial legitimacy that is unprecedented in recent American history.
The confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the United States Supreme Court will mark the point of no return for the independence of the federal judiciary.
While Judge Barrett may qualify by training and experience, she was nominated by the president because she passed a litmus test for judges likely to severely limit or overturn the Affordable Care Act, civil rights and voting rights, and women’s reproductive freedoms enshrined in Roe v. Wade and successor cases. Among the first cases a new justice will face involves a demand by the Trump Justice Department to repeal the ACA in its entirety, along with election challenges that could determine whether the president who appointed her is reelected.
Trump has said the quiet part out loud. He makes no secret of the fact that he expects the court to decide these election lawsuits in his favor and strike down the law that provides health care to millions of Americans during a deadly pandemic.
This administration inherited more than 100 federal court vacancies because during President Obama’s second term the Senate abandoned its constitutional role in the lower court confirmation process — just as it did by refusing to consider President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.
This administration has now appointed, and the Senate has confirmed, more than 200 life-tenured judges. Americans are, right now, in the process of electing a new president. Never has the Senate confirmed a new Supreme Court justice during a general election that will decide the presidency. The undemocratic rush to confirm this justice is part of a scheme to create a conservative supermajority on the court that could overturn the will of a majority of Americans for decades to come.
What do African Americans have to lose with a supermajority of conservative extremists on the court? Monday’s appalling ruling by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Texas is a prime example of how rank partisanship has infected the federal courts, obliterating any pretense of judicial objectivity and the rule of law. The three-judge panel — all appointed by this administration and confirmed along political party lines — upheld the governor’s decision to create a single ballot collection site for each county, including a single site for five million voters in a landmass larger than Rhode Island.
If the Supreme Court can sanction this kind of political manipulation, there are no limits on the rampant voter suppression we can expect in November’s election and years beyond.
The contempt this administration and Senate leadership have for the will of the voters and the constitutional responsibilities of Congress is nothing short of breathtaking.
Even as a growing majority of citizens have loudly voiced their demand for racial and economic justice, firm enforcement of civil and individual rights, and the security of health care under the Affordable Care Act, Judge Barrett’s lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court represents a trampling of those demands.
History will not look favorably on what the Senate leadership appears poised to do. There is one last chance for them to honor their oath of office and the will of the American people and reject the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett.
Morial is president and CEO of the National Urban League.
For the sixth year in a row, Essence magazine and the Black Women’s Roundtable have surveyed Black women about the issues that concern them most. Melanie Campbell, convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable and president and CEO of the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation, summarizes the top concerns: “survival, safety and stability.” Black women are concerned about the rise in hate crimes and the persistence of structural racism. In light of the public lynching of George Floyd and the racist rhetoric of the incumbent president, these concerns are unsurprising. According to the Essence poll, 90% of Black women support the Biden-Harris ticket, and 80% give the incumbent president failing grades.
Black women aren’t only concerned; they are also active and activist. It is heartening to see Black women raising their voices in many arenas, not only at the top of the ticket but also with support for Biden and Harris and further down the ballot with state and local races. For example, Yvonne Lewis Holley is running for lieutenant governor of North Carolina. Nobody asked her to run, she said — she just stepped up. She is relying on Black folk all over the country to help her clear this hurdle — imagine a Black woman as second-in-command in a southern state! Some of her support is coming from the Divine Nine — the African-American Greek-letter organizations. While all of the organizations are nonprofit and nonpolitical individual members can be supportive, and the members of her sorority (and mine) have her back.
Political veterans such as Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) face well-financed challengers. They need Black girl magic to counter opponents who have been emboldened by 45’s racist rhetoric to attack these women. It would be one thing if these challengers had records of community service and involvement, but they are Republican props who have been encouraged to challenges these mighty women. The effort, of course, is to mute these strong community advocates and to marginalize Black women. Black girl magic isn’t having it.
So it is exciting to see Black women raising money to support Black women. Star Jones leads a group that has raised six figured for the Biden/Harris ticket. The Collective PAC, founded by Stephanie Brown James and Quentin James, is building Black political power. During this election cycle, they’ve endorsed an exciting group of Black men and women running for office and set up a mechanism where people can donate to these candidates. The PAC has been around since 2016 when it became clear that we must increase Black political power. Higher Heights PAC endorsed Kamala Harris for president and describes itself as “the only national organization providing Black women with a political home exclusively dedicated to harnessing their power to expand Black women’s elected representation and voting participation.” Using the hashtag #Blackwomenvote, they are galvanizing Black women around this election, both at the top of the ticket and down-ballot. They are one of the relatively new, inspiring organizations raising both money and awareness for Black women.
Voting is never the most we can do, but the least. These PACS, activists and organizations remind us that we must not only vote but boost our civic participation. As I write this, just a couple of weeks before November 3, 2020, I am hopeful that the Black women’s vote will increase from its 2008 level when we came out in droves to support President Obama. We have to vote like our lives depend on it because they do. But we can’t just vote; we can encourage others to do the same thing. We can ask our friends and family members if they’ve voted. And if we are well enough, we can volunteer to work the polls.
Black women are magic; we are Black girl magic. Now is the time to work it.
Julianne Malveaux is an economist and author. She can be reached at juliannemalveaux.com.