As universities plan to reopen, they continue to overlook the concerns of campus staff.
As colleges unveil their reopening plans for the fall, concerns about the safety of faculty teaching in classrooms populated with young adults have taken center stage. But largely left out of the conversation have been the people actually getting campuses up and running: the staff.
Over the past few months, the pandemic has exposed long-standing fissures in the campus workplace. Faculty and staff occupy two very different worlds—a chasm like few others in the American economy. Though they work for the same employer, faculty, by definition, enjoy more job security and power to shape how the university runs, while campus staff continue to be far more vulnerable.
Since the pandemic began, staff—who constitute about half of those employed by American colleges and universities—have been hit with the brunt of furloughs and layoffs. Some 250 schools have instituted furloughs, but two-thirds have taken that action only for staff, according to Chris Marsicano, the founding director of the College Crisis Initiative at Davidson College, which is tracking how institutions are responding to the coronavirus. About half of the colleges that enacted layoffs did so only for staff. The difference in how faculty and staff have been treated during the pandemic may be most visible in the flexibility each group has in working from home: Of more than 900 colleges that have allowed employees to work remotely, 300 have extended that benefit only to faculty.
Read: The truth about what happens next for colleges
One reason campus staff is overlooked is because the term itself is amorphous. It includes those we often think of as staff, such as maintenance and dining workers, but it also encompasses athletic trainers, computer technicians, lawyers, and academic advisers with advanced degrees. David Perry, who has experienced campus work life both as a tenured professor at Dominican University in Illinois and now as a senior academic adviser in the history department at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, told me that the pandemic has “ossified ideas about who is in charge and who matters.” From the moment campuses shifted to remote learning in March, he added, “students and faculty were immediately prioritized, and staff were an afterthought.”
Although the term faculty doesn’t describe a monolithic category—it’s used to refer to full-time professors, part-time adjuncts, and graduate assistants—full-time tenured professors benefit from certain job protections and share in the governance of the university. Staff might also participate in their own form of “shared governance,” but it’s typically seen as a second-rate version of what faculty get, and staff employment is usually more structured, managed, and at-will than that of faculty.
Mary George Opperman, the vice president and chief human resources officer at Cornell University, told me that the size and the makeup of staff have grown as higher education has become more complex, but that the faculty-student experience remains the lifeblood of the university. “If universities didn’t have faculty, they’d be something else,” Opperman said. “You hire faculty for a specific reason—for their scholarship. They have autonomy. Staff is brought in for a different reason, often in support of the faculty.”
In the past several weeks, a growing chorus of professors is questioning the wisdom of returning to in-person instruction. But while faculty members get to make those complaints from the safety of their own homes, low-paid housekeepers and maintenance employees who can’t work remotely are already on campus getting it ready for the fall amid fresh outbreaks among athletes and partying students.
Julia Marcus and Jessica Gold: Colleges are getting ready to blame their students
“It’s just assumed that these employees will be there no matter the risk,” Todd Holden, the interim president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees at the University of Maryland, told me. The union represents 3,400 employees at the flagship College Park campus, including housekeepers, bus drivers, and administrative assistants.
Staff members may also feel left out of the flurry of communications coming from campus leaders this summer. When Florida State University suggested in a June memo that employees working from home during the pandemic would no longer be allowed to care for children at the same time, a backlash ensued. A few days later, campus officials tried to clarify the message, saying that faculty wouldn’t be impacted. That memo was later removed from the web.
A key difference in these reopening plans is that faculty at many schools can choose whether they teach in person or online, exposing tensions not only with staff but also with graduate assistants who have for years been fighting to be recognized as workers. Now that distinction—whether they are students or employees—is even more crucial. At Cornell, for example, professors can choose whether they want to teach in person or online this fall. But with undergraduates scheduled to return to campus, the university believes some faculty will teach face-to-face. Joining them in classrooms and labs will be graduate assistants who don’t have the same leeway that faculty members do. If graduate students want to work remotely, they need to ask for an accommodation through official university channels.
Michael J. Sorrell: Colleges are deluding themselves
Even so, faculty in two dozen Cornell departments have agreed on their own to allow their graduate assistants to work remotely if they want to—creating yet another divide between workers, in this case graduate students. Becky Lu, a doctoral student in English, told me her department is among those allowing flexibility, so Lu has decided to teach online this fall. “My own department respects us as workers in this particular case, but the university doesn’t,” she said, “even though we’ll be doing a critical amount of the teaching and research this fall.”
Reopening plans now posted on college websites reflect the same divides. These plans were largely written by administrators and faculty, and they focus on students and professors. “The academy made a verb out of the word silo,” Kiernan Mathews, the executive director of the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education at Harvard, told me.
What happens to those faculty and staff silos—and the future of many jobs on campuses—hangs in the balance this fall. If campuses reopen to students but most faculty teach remotely, students and administrators who show up might see more clearly how staff are the connective tissue holding campuses together—the cooks in dining halls, the janitors cleaning residence halls, and the technicians maintaining digital infrastructure. But if the spread of COVID-19 intensifies this fall with new outbreaks and hot spots that force schools to move fully online again, it could spell financial trouble for many campuses, and even more isolation for staff as schools trim their workforces, disproportionately affecting those who make campuses run.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeffrey Selingo is the author of the forthcoming book Who Gets In and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions.
Earlier this week, there was a telling moment when Joe Biden spoke in Wilmington, Delaware, about the need to combat systemic racism and foster racial equality in the American economy. His speech was the latest in a series of public appearances in which the Presidential candidate has rolled out his Build Back Better economic agenda; earlier discussions were devoted to strengthening American manufacturing, addressing climate change, and building up the caring economy. “This election is not just about voting against Donald Trump,” Biden said. “It’s about rising to this moment of crisis, understanding people’s struggles, and building a future worthy of their courage and their ambition to overcome.”
The giveaway was the phrase “not just about.” Since capturing the Democratic nomination, Biden has repeatedly acknowledged, implicitly and explicitly, that, for many Americans, the 2020 election is mainly about getting rid of his opponent. This dynamic was clear during the primaries, when a majority of Democrats told pollsters that their top priority was selecting someone who could defeat Trump. It’s evident today in the endorsements that the former Vice-President has picked up, from groups ranging from the Lincoln Project, an organization of Never Trump Republicans that is running ads attacking the President and supporting Biden, to Indivisible, a group of progressive activists whose home page blares, “BEAT TRUMP AND SAVE DEMOCRACY.”
To the members of these groups, and to many other Americans, Biden’s role is to serve as a human lever to pry a disastrous President out of the White House. Defying the concerns of some political professionals who watched his primary campaign, the former Vice-President is shaping up to be an effective crowbar. Since wrapping up the nomination, in March, he and his campaign team have successfully navigated at least three significant political challenges.
The first was uniting the Democratic Party after a chaotic primary season. To this end, Biden has reached out to the Party’s progressive wing and tacked to the left in some of his own policy proposals. He created a Unity Task Force—including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other supporters of Bernie Sanders—that released a lengthy set of recommendations earlier this month. Biden now supports Elizabeth Warren’s bankruptcy plan, which would make it easier for financially strapped people to discharge their debts. He has put forward a proposal to insure free tuition for many students at public colleges, modelled on an earlier Sanders plan. His climate-change strategy sets a target of 2035 for the creation of a zero-emissions power grid, which is just five years later than the deadline laid out in the Green New Deal. Some Sanders supporters are still scornful of Biden, but there has been no repeat of the internecine conflict that occurred in 2016.
The second task facing Biden was to fashion a coherent response to the tumultuous events of 2020. That’s where his Build Back Better plan comes in. The members of his policy team have worked on the assumption that the coronavirus-stricken economy will need substantial financial support for years. They think that this presents an opportunity to make it greener, more worker-friendly, and more racially inclusive. Biden’s proposals include spending two trillion dollars on projects to move beyond fossil fuels; seven hundred and seventy-five billion dollars on expanding care for preschoolers and the elderly; and a hundred and fifty billion dollars on supporting small, minority-owned businesses. He’s also promised to insure that forty per cent of the investment in green-energy infrastructure benefits disadvantaged communities, to expand rent subsidies for low-income households, to facilitate labor-union organizing, and to introduce a national minimum wage of fifteen dollars per hour.
Many progressive policy experts still think that Biden’s proposals don’t go far enough, but some of them are also issuing qualified praise. “When you look at all four elements of his economic platform, I think some of them have been very good—the climate plan in particular,” Felicia Wong, the president of the Roosevelt Institute, told me. Wong also said that the speech Biden gave this week about the economy, race, and the coronavirus was an effective one. “He recognized that people of color suffer the most in economic downturns, and also bounce back last,” she said. “It’s hard for a lot of people to make the race and economic arguments together, and he laid it out eloquently.”
The third challenge that Biden faced was to avoid giving Trump an easy target. The pandemic has made the dodging part easier. Hunkered down in Wilmington, Biden largely has left the President to dig his own hole—which he has done, ably. But Biden has also reached out to Trump Country. The first of his Build Back Better speeches was delivered in Rust Belt Pennsylvania: it included calls to restore American manufacturing and “buy American.” As well as adopting some of the language of economic nationalism, Biden has rejected certain progressive proposals, such as defunding the police and enforcing a complete ban on fracking, that might alienate moderate whites in battleground states.
This is smart politics, Ruy Teixeira, a polling expert and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, told me. Despite the changing demographics of the United States, whites who don’t have a college degree still make up about forty-four per cent of the eligible electorate, according to Teixeira; in some places, such as parts of the Midwest, the figure is even higher. “You cannot cede massive sections of the electorate if you want to be successful politically,” Teixeira said.
In 2016, Trump carried the white non-college demographic by thirty-one percentage points at the national level, according to Teixeira’s analysis of exit polls and election returns. Biden has narrowed the gap to twelve points, Teixeira said, citing a recent survey. That is similar to the margin in 2008, when Barack Obama defeated John McCain and the Democrats increased their majorities in both houses of Congress. As it is often defined, the Obama coalition consisted of minority voters, college-educated white liberals, and young people. Teixeira pointed out that Obama’s ability to restrict McCain’s margin in the white non-college demographic was also important, and if Biden matched that feat in November, he said, it could be of enormous consequence. “This is not the only thing that is going wrong for Trump,” Teixeira said, “but it is the thing that could give the Democrats the big victory that they need to govern effectively.”
None of this means that Biden is a lock for the Oval Office. Between now and November 3rd, something could conceivably shift the momentum against him, such as a Vice-Presidential pick that backfires, a major slipup in the debates, or a surprising economic upturn. Right now, though, the challenger’s strategy of keeping the focus on the incumbent and pitching a broad tent that accommodates anyone who wants to see the back of Trump is working well.
A former U.S. poet laureate’s new memoir reflects on the power of storytelling to reconcile past traumas—and offers lessons for surviving the cataclysms of the present.
In her foundational 1977 essay,“Poetry Is Not a Luxury,” the Black feminist writer Audre Lorde argued that the art form transcends the constraints of the written word. Poetry doesn’t just reflect the world as it exists, she insisted; rather, it ushers in a new one. “It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action,” Lorde wrote. Later, she added that “there are no new ideas … only new ways of making them felt.”
In recent months, as we trudge through the morass of These Unprecedented Times, I’ve returned often to Lorde’s words. Poems have alchemized death and imagined the continuation of lives cut short by racist violence. They’ve given texture to the “sudden strangeness” of life brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, offering comfort to countless readers. In moments of uncertainty, poetry has illuminated bridges to the past—and shown how the act of remembering might alter the future.
I thought of Lorde’s exhortation again as I read Memorial Drive, the new memoir from the former U.S. poet laureate Natasha Trethewey. In her latest book, the poet traces the years leading up to, and after, the day her mother was shot and killed by Trethewey’s stepfather. Though written in prose, Trethwey’s memoir is awash in metaphor, its language a meditation on the role that poetry—and storytelling more broadly—can play in reconciling trauma. In the depth and clarity of her retrospective study, Trethewey also offers lessons for surviving the cataclysms of the present.
That resonance comes naturally: For Trethewey, her mother’s killing is inextricable from the violence that shaped the United States, and especially the South, where she was raised. “My mother was murdered on Memorial Drive. That [street] is also the site of Stone Mountain that honors the memory of the Confederacy and this huge national wound of war, rape, and violence,” she said of the infamous Georgia monument when we spoke recently. “It took me a while to realize that it was the literal juxtaposition that had formed for me the lasting metaphor of my own project—to lay these wounds and this grief, both personal and national, side by side.”
Memorial Drive is an exercise in unshrouding that which has been purposely hidden, whether by history or by oneself. So writing it required Trethewey to make her grief felt, as Lorde says, in new ways. “Three decades is a long time to get to know the contours of loss, to become intimate with one’s own bereavement,” Trethewey writes in the final pages of the memoir. “You get used to it. Most days it is a distant thing, always on the horizon, sailing toward me with its difficult cargo.” Confronting that “distant thing” in prose meant that Trethewey needed to bridge the gap between herself and the pain. But Trethewey’s words also make a rhetorical linkage to history: What more “difficult cargo” has sailed toward the southern states than the people once snatched from their homelands, those whose labor constructed the region?
The challenge of memoir also led Trethewey to write her first poems that directly address her mother’s death. In “Articulation,” which ended up being published in Monument, her 2018 book of poetry, Trethewey describes a dream in which her mother appears to her with a gunshot wound three weeks after the murder. In the final quatrain, Trethewey ties her writing to the task of preserving her mother’s memory:
How, then, could I not answer her life
with mine, she who saved me with hers?
And how could I not, bathed in the light
of her wound, find my calling there?
The image of her late mother also surfaces in Memorial Drive. “When I begin to say out loud that I am going to write about my mother, to tell the story of those years I’ve tried to forget, I have more dreams about her in a span of weeks than in all the years she’s been gone,” Trethewey writes. But approaching the same dream via different modes of writing helped her arrive at different insights. “It’s like I need more than one form to address it,” she told me.
Memorial Drive’s many reflections on storytelling as a pathway to survival don’t apply only to poets, or even to those who would readily call themselves writers. Throughout her memoir, Trethewey meditates on the personal power of coming back to images and memories, whether in poetry or in prose. “I think that’s one of the places I find the most meaning—in repetition and the way that something not only repeats but also is transformed through repetition,” Trethewey said. “I think that’s why I have revisited not only that [same] dream, but other scenes from my childhood the older I get, because I see something that I might not have seen earlier by looking again and again at it.” Among the most wrenching sections of Memorial Drive are those in which Trethewey revisits these memories, not just to “see” more but to directly address her fifth-grade self.
In speaking to that girl, Trethewey rewrites the years she spent distancing herself from the knowledge that her stepfather abused her mother. Unlike the second-person invocations in “Imperatives for Carrying On in the Aftermath,” a poem from Monument that’s scaffolded with examples of the cruel dismissals that domestic-violence victims face, Trethewey’s note to her younger self focuses inward. Utilizing the second person, the author reaches back and grants herself retroactive compassion. Recalling those early years in Memorial Drive, Trethewey describes the time her mother told her stepfather that a young Natasha had overheard his abuses:
Your shame and your sadness are doubled. You hear in your mother’s words a plea to get him to stop. You hear her desperate hope that his knowing you know, knowing you listen, will put an end to the abuse. As if the fact that you are a child, that you are only in the fifth grade, will change anything at all. And now you know that there is nothing you can do.
you know you know you know.
The repetition here is agonizing to read; Trethewey said she wanted the lines to feel like “a gnashing of my teeth” to the reader. But the acknowledgement of long-buried trauma and how it reverberates also functions as an unburdening. The refrain doesn’t just express anguish; it soothes, too. “I go back again and again to [the words of the English poet Percy Bysshe] Shelley—‘Poetry is the mirror that makes beautiful that which is distorted,’” Trethewey told me. “It is the wonderful things you can do with language, the sonic textures and repetition … that actually make whatever it is I’m writing about lighter.” She continued: “Because it’s pure pleasure. It’s pure joy when … I’m making a poem or when I’m trying to bring the same kind of poetic lyricism to a page of prose. The levity is the joy of making—of the made thing.”
Even when poetry or narrative doesn’t lift personal burdens, it can offer a lens through which to understand the world. Consider, for example, one work from another former U.S. poet laureate, Tracy K. Smith. In “Declaration,” Smith redacts portions of the Declaration of Independence, using an art form known as erasure to create a kind of found poem.
Read: What Tracy K. Smith sees in America
Rather than obfuscating existing truth, though, it gives rise to additional meaning. Smith recasts the Founding Fathers’ grievances, using them to capture the harms they visited upon the people they enslaved (and the ripple effects of that original violence). The poem reappraises a fundamental document of American history, connecting it directly to the tragedies it wrought.
We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration
and settlement here.
on the high Seas
Like Smith’s “Declaration,” the work of the poet Kevin Young disrupts the linearity of time, and of grief. Book of Hours, his 2014 collection, takes its name from the popular Christian prayer devotional. In it, Young chronicles the days that follow his father’s death, placing them in the same timeline as those leading up to a far more joyful milestone: the birth of his son. The connection between sorrow and hope is one that Young explored at length while compiling the 2010 anthology The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing. That tension and promise animates Trethewey’s approach to writing, too. When we spoke, she mentioned a piece by the German-born poet Lisel Mueller called “When I Am Asked,” in which Mueller writes first of “the indifference of nature” before describing a “brilliant June day” soon after her mother’s death. Mueller concludes that she
placed my grief
in the mouth of language,
the only thing that would grieve with me
Trethewey, whose mother also died in June, sees the poem as a heavy but hopeful reminder. “It’s that sentiment right there that again and again, I had to put my grief in the mouth of language, because it’s the only thing that will grieve with me,” she told me. “I think a poem like that reminds us of both the isolation that you can feel when you’re grieving, but also the communal feeling that you can feel because of language reminding you that this [process] is ancient and ongoing.”
The pains being exorcised in America now are ancient and ongoing, too—no matter how unprecedented the times. Whether by conveying the scale of national grief during a pandemic, or exposing the relentlessness of racism, poetry has already created new ways of experiencing, and surviving, life’s darkest chapters. And in composing their words, and themselves, through this interminable gloom, Trethewey and other poets working now compose the rest of us, too.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.
Hannah Giorgis is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where she covers culture.
تامی نارنجی می پیوندد دبورا Treisman به خواندن و بحث در مورد “سال تولد من” توسط لوئیس Erdrich که به نظر می رسد در سال 2011 شماره از مجله. نارنجی اولین رمان “وجود دارد” منتشر شد در سال 2018 شد و فینالیست برای جایزه پولیتزر.
The concept was always an unstable foundation on which to build a common American identity
Last week, the State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights issued its draft report on the global status of human rights. The report, which resulted from a year of cerebral discussions with a carefully curated set of scholars and activists, brought the conversation back to where it started: an impassioned celebration of religious freedom as the most important human right. Anticipating criticisms of advancing a highly selective, conservative-Christian reading of human rights, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has defended the focus on religious freedom as a distinctively American birthright now applicable to all manner of “faith traditions.” In fact, he argues, the original American human-rights vision was inspired equally by another non-Christian religion, Judaism. The report, he has said, will “return America’s understanding of human rights … back to the fundamental moorings of the Judeo-Christian tradition on which this country was founded.” Except that tradition never existed.
The “Judeo-Christian tradition” was one of 20th-century America’s greatest political inventions. An ecumenical marketing meme for combatting godless communism, the catchphrase long did the work of animating American conservatives in the Cold War battle. For a brief time, canny liberals also embraced the phrase as a rhetorical pathway of inclusion into postwar American democracy for Jews, Catholics, and Black Americans. In a world divided by totalitarianism abroad and racial segregation at home, the notion of a shared American religious heritage promised racial healing and national unity.
Derek Thompson: Three decades ago, America lost its religion. Why?
Yet the “Judeo-Christian tradition” excluded not only Muslims, Native Americans, and other non-Western religious communities, but also atheists and secularists of all persuasions. American Jews themselves were reluctant adopters. After centuries of Christian anti-Semitic persecution and philo-Semitic fantasies of Jewish conversion, many eyed the award of an honorary hyphen with suspicion. Even some anti-communist politicians themselves recognized the concept as ill-suited to America’s postwar quest for global primacy in a decolonizing world.
The mythical “Judeo-Christian tradition,” then, proved an unstable foundation on which to build a common American identity. Today, as American democracy once again grasps for root metaphors with which to confront our country’s diversity and its place in the world, the term’s recuperation should rightfully alarm us: It has always divided Americans far more than it has united them.
Although the Jewish and Christian traditions stretch back side by side to antiquity, the phrase Judeo-Christian is a remarkably recent creation. In Imagining Judeo-Christian America: Religion, Secularism, and the Redefinition of Democracy, the historian K. Healan Gaston marshals an impressive array of sources to provide us with an account of the modern genesis of Judeo-Christian and its growing status as a “linguistic battlefield” on which conservatives and liberals proffered competing notions of America and its place in the world from the 1930s to the present.
Before the 20th century, the notion of a “Judeo-Christian” tradition was virtually unthinkable, because Christianity viewed itself as the successor to an inferior, superseded Jewish faith, along with other inferior creeds. A good example of this comes from Reverend Ezra Stiles, president of Yale College and the most important intellectual in the early American republic, who wrote of religious freedom in 1785:
The most ample religious liberty will also probably [be obtained here] … The United States will embosom all the religious sects or denominations in Christendom … The Baptists, the Friends, the Lutherans … will cohabit together in harmony … That liberal and candid disquisition of Christianity which will most assuredly take place in America, will prepare Europe for the first event, with which the other will be connected, when, especially on the return of the Twelve Tribes to the Holy Land, there will burst forth a degree of evidence hitherto unperceived, and of efficacy to convert a world … A time will come when six hundred millions of the human race shall be ready to drop their idolatry and all false religion, when Christianity shall triumph over superstition, as well as Deism, and Gentilism, and Mohammedanism.
Religious freedom meant freedom for Christians. Jews might be accommodated, though not necessarily with full equality, on a temporary basis until their eventual conversion. Like many other founding-era leaders, Stiles actually exhibited deep curiosity about Jews and Judaism. He spent six months attending services at the Newport, Rhode Island, synagogue to learn from a rabbi, Haim Isaac Carigal. The experience inspired Stiles to institute a short-lived Hebrew-language requirement for all Yale College freshmen. Yet he held to a theology of replacement in which Judaism would yield along with other faiths to a world unified in Christianity. Nor was he alone in this conviction. True, Western thinkers spoke of Athens and Jerusalem, but the latter was exclusively embodied in the Christian Church, not the rabbinic tradition. If anything, the shared patrimony of Judaism and Christianity was more a point of theological friction than a site of secular reconciliation.
That traditional belief reflected itself in the slow pace of Jewish inclusion in American society. Even as legal barriers for non-Christians slowly fell state by state in the 19th century, Christian Americans hardly viewed their country, much less Western civilization, as embodying a tradition shared equally by Jews and Christians. During the Civil War and early Reconstruction years, Congress repeatedly considered a constitutional amendment to declare the United States a “Christian nation” under the ultimate sovereignty of the “Lord Jesus Christ.”
Peter Wehner: The deepening crisis in evangelical Christianity
Only in the 1930s did that slowly begin to change, as the rise of Nazism alarmed American Christians who saw in fascism, as in communism, an ideology that threatened to destroy the broader spiritual culture of the West. A European émigré, the German liberal theologian Paul Tillich, was among the first to use the phrase, warning in 1933 that the “Protestant church in Germany has on the whole fallen under the spell of Hitlerism … [the] Jewish-Christian tradition [must fight] totalitarianism.” Tillich’s comment typified much of the American Christian response to Nazism, which focused less on the concrete anti-Semitic threat to Europe’s Jews than the spiritual and political danger Nazism posed to Western religion as a whole.
The years following America’s entry into World War II saw a rapid rise in the new Judeo-Christian discourse, as Americans tried to make sense of their country’s role in repelling the Nazi assault on Western civilization. The intertwining of religion and democracy provided a helpful means for Jewish and Christian clergy and politicians to signal their shared commitment to anti-fascism. But its heyday would really arrive only at war’s end, as the rhetoric morphed easily into the new vocabulary of Cold War politics. Anti-communist liberals found in the phrase a convenient shorthand “for religious pluralism in general, identifying unbounded diversity and unfettered freedom of belief as the keynotes of democratic life,” Gaston writes. What mattered most in the Cold War, and in a rapidly changing America, was making a common commitment to faith. “America prescribes religion: but it does not care which one,” wrote the sociologist Nathan Glazer in 1955. Postwar America had developed its own “religion of religion,” marked by a striking ecumenical spirit.
Yet it was not quite true that America didn’t particularly care which religion its people chose. Conservatives interpreted the same idiom in narrower, exceptionalist terms to argue that only Protestantism, Catholicism, and Judaism could inoculate American society from the dangerous viruses of Marxist secularism and excessive pluralism. In 1954, for instance, the Protestant pastor George Docherty persuaded President Dwight Eisenhower to officially add the words under God to the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God we trust” to American currency as part of a “theological war”:
[We face] a militantly atheistic Communism that has already enslaved 800 million of the peoples of the earth, and now menaces the rest of the free world. The one fundamental concept that completely and ultimately separates Communist Russia from the democratic institutions of this country [is our] Judeo-Christian civilization.”
Accordingly, Docherty argued, American society must promote its own identity as a “God-fearing nation” defined by the “Christian revelation” and the “Christian ethic.” To do so would proclaim to the world that “in this land, there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female, for we are one nation indivisible under God.”
Read: Atheists are sometimes more religious than Christians
Docherty’s sermon persuaded Eisenhower to make the symbolic changes. It also inadvertently highlighted the problem with Jewish-Christian relations at the heart of the imagined “Judeo-Christian” tradition. The reference to Saint Paul’s famous vision of Christian universalism—“neither Jew nor Greek”—cast Jews as a people destined to disappear in a future all-Christian world. After thousands of years of persecution and missionizing, some American Jews viewed their “Judeo” hyphen as little more than a fig leaf masking an unabashedly Christianist agenda. They likewise winced when Commissioner of Education Earl McGrath, who led the federal Office of Education, declared in 1950 that American public schools must uphold the “ideals of the Judeo-Christian conception of life” to build a “truly Christian, democratic community.”
Remarkably, Eisenhower was one of the first to flag the problematic nature of Judeo-Christian. Despite Eisenhower’s promotion of God language in American governance, including the inauguration of the National Prayer Breakfast, Gaston observes, he seldom used the specific phrase Judeo-Christian. Eisenhower seems to have been less concerned with its repercussions for America’s Jews or others than with the way it would be received by a global audience. In a fascinating letter written in 1954, Ike cautions his brother on his use of the phrase:
You speak of the ‘Judaic-Christian heritage.’ I would suggest that you use a term on the order of ‘religious heritage’—this is for the reason that we should find some way of including the vast numbers of people who hold to the Islamic and Buddhist religions when we compare the religious world against the Communist world. I think you could still point out the debt we all owe to the ancients of Judea and Greece for the introduction of new ideas.
Eisenhower’s move away from exclusionary religious rhetoric suggests the complicated nature of religion and democracy in a postwar American society. Some conservatives recognized the problem with their own language at the time. By the same token, liberals saw how the phrase might be strategically mobilized for the cause of civil rights. In a 1960 speech, for example, Martin Luther King Jr. denounced racial discrimination as a “cancerous disease that prevents us from realizing the sublime principles of our Judeo-Christian tradition. It relegates persons to the status of things.”
Read: Martin Luther King Jr. saw three evils in the world
As it turned out, King’s lofty invocation of “our Judeo-Christian tradition” in the name of civil rights marked the high point of the phrase for American liberals. Even at that time, King’s 1960s Jewish civil-rights allies pushed hard to separate Church and state through a series of landmark Supreme Court cases. Privileging religion would not end well for American Jews and other religious minorities, they argued. True religious freedom required separation of government from faith.
Beginning in the 1970s, as the new religious right ascended in American politics and immigration and post-civil-rights liberalism reshaped the American left, Judeo-Christian became closely tied to the American right. As liberals retired the term, conservatives doubled down on it. The phrase appears with regularity in rhetorical attacks on Islam and the progressive left, in attempts to restrict immigration and LGBTQ rights, and in arguments in favor of religious freedom that would collapse the wall of separation between Church and state. Now it has surfaced again in the Trump administration’s unlikely quest to identify a unifying principle for an American human-rights agenda. Once again, the theological bond between Judaism and Christianity has been invoked to justify the inclusive potential in the “Judeo-Christian” religious tradition supposedly underlying American politics.
The incredible religious diversity that has blossomed in the United States since the 1960s has changed our country for good, and for the better. We cannot turn back the clock to a mythical “Judeo-Christian America” in order to chart a new course for America’s moral imagination. Nor can we ignore the fact that the catchphrase has failed to shed its Christian religious residue. Living through an unprecedented era of anti-Semitism, American Jews no longer wish to play the role of guest stars in someone else’s theological drama. An authentically American human-rights vision cannot rest upon a flawed historical reading of how our country first came to imagine rights. In a 1773 sermon attended by Ezra Stiles, Rabbi Carigal warned future Americans that “imaginary conceptions” and “remote applications” of the Hebrew Bible were no basis on which to justify American revolutionary politics. The same holds true for our visions of human rights and religious freedom today.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
James Loeffler is the Jay Berkowitz Professor of Jewish History at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Rooted Cosmopolitans: Jews and Human Rights in the Twentieth Century and The Most Musical Nation: Jews and Culture in the Late Russian Empire, and co-editor of the forthcoming volume, The Law of Strangers: Jewish Lawyering and International Law in Historical Perspective.
اوه, هر کس کاملا از من متنفر است. همه از جمله من پزشک متخصص اطفال غریبه در Panera که به من گفت من به “هاله” و هر کس دیگری که تا به حال وجود داشته فکر می کند من بدترین انسان همیشه—من فقط آن را می دانم.
کاملا هر فرد بر روی زمین است متنفر بودم من از آنجایی که من یک پسر بچه کوچولو. در حالی که بسیاری اندکی بیابان موضوع پدر و مادر خود را’ عشق من مطرح شد با تمسخر آشکار. پدر من مشغول به کار ساعت های طولانی در یک استرس بالا بالا پرداخت کار فقط او می تواند به جلوگیری از صرف زمان در مجاورت. مادر من ابراز تنفر من به درجه ای که او حاضر به حتی breast-feed me بعد چهارم تولد. آنها در نهایت ثبت نام من در بهترین مدارس, به طوری که من می توانند یاد بگیرند به منفور بهترین معلمان. این سال به عنوان یک دوست نداشتند پسر بچه اندکی ضخیم پوست من برای نفرت آمده است.
ضمنا من معتقدم که یکی از دلایل نفرت مردم من است که من با مراجعه به کودکان به عنوان “لحظهای بیابان.” من آرزو می کنم من می تواند همه چیز را تغییر دهید در مورد خودم اما در خصوص این.
من می دانم که مردم برای پیدا کردن آن بدتر به گوش کسی با تمام افتخار در جهان دائما اصرار دارند که “هر کس متنفر” او. فقط تصور کنید چقدر آزار دهنده تر از آن است که برای من یک شخص در واقع متنفر توسط هر کس که phonies تظاهر آنها آنهایی که همه متنفر است. من شرط می بندم این همان phonies با “دوستان” پرتاب عجیب و فوق العاده سرگرم کننده حزب در هر ماه که در آن همه آنها آویزان است. هر کس تنها نشسته در اطراف این احزاب و لیست های مختلف چیزهایی که از آنها نفرت درباره من. من هرگز به این دعوت حزب من تصور زیرا افرادی که پرتاب خیالی احزاب نیز نفرت من.
من یک بار دیدم Tom Hanks, مهربانترین مرد در جهان, و او به من گفت که او هرگز دیده می شود یک فرد بیشتر punchable یا مکروه از من. او نگفت این شفاهی اما نه با چشم. چه باور نکردنی بازیگر.
درمانگر من به من می گوید من در خود من و که آن را “در واقع نوع خودخواه” به فرض که هر کس به صرف اوقات فراغت خود را به فکر کردن در مورد من. من می خواهم به باور او, اما من می دانم که او از من متنفر است ، چرا دیگری او را لغو جلسه ما برای هفته آخر ماه دسامبر ؟
به طور جدی فکر می کنم از یک فرد است. یک فرد در ذهن ؟ درست است—میشل اوباما از من متنفر است و او را دوست دارد همه. در حال حاضر فکر می کنم از شخص دیگری. ما در حال حاضر تاسیس که تام هنکس از من متنفر است. چرا شما می خواهم فکر می کنم کسی که من در حال حاضر به ارمغان آورد ؟ شما فقط یک فرد معمولی که از من متنفر است به طور مداوم در تلاش برای پاک کردن نمک در من تام هنکس به شکل زخم.
من سرسخت ترین متنفر بندر خیلی خشم برای من است که آنها سعی می کنید برای gaslight من به باور آنها در واقع مثل من. آنها می گویند چیزهایی مانند “به طور جدی ؟ من از شما خواسته به بهترین مرد در عروسی من” و یا “توقف گفتن غریبه ما بد بودند پدر و مادر!” من کاملا نمی دانند که تا چه حد از این متنفر تحقیر برای من اما باید با آن زندگی می کنند هر روز.
هیچ کس از من متنفر است بیش از من نامزد امیلی. نفرت او را طول می کشد به شکل ترحم که منجر او را به رفتن در تعطیلات با من صرف تنبل روزهای یکشنبه و شریک شدن در رابطه جنسی با من. او می گوید: من “ادم سفیه و احمق” فکر می کنم که کسی که فقط توافق به صرف بقیه عمر خود را با من صادقانه از من متنفر است. ببینید من راست از طریق بازی ، اگر او نمی کند نفرت من: پس چرا او هرگز موافق به تماشای ساعت بر ساعت از شکست در یوتیوب با من ؟ شما همیشه می توانید بگویید که کسی متنفر شما اگر فرد حاضر به انجام دقیق چیزی که شما می خواهید به انجام.
بله به اعتقاد من وقتی که من می گویند که من منفور ترین فرد در جهان است. اگر شما من را باور نمی, خوب, پس از آن من حدس می زنم آن را می آید به هیچ عنوان تعجب به یاد بگیرند که شما از آنها بدم میاید من بیش از حد.
On the night of August 31, 2019, police officers rushed into a Hong Kong subway station, swinging their batons and chasing suspected anti-government protesters into the narrow carriageways of a parked train as an emergency warning blared overhead.
Like many pivotal moments of the city’s protest movement, the scenes were captured in photographs and live-streams by journalists and bystanders. The most enduring image from the incident shows a small group of people huddled by the subway door. Among them is a man crouching on the floor, holding his hand up toward the police in anguish and fear as he is doused by a thick stream of pepper spray.
Hong Kong’s protest movement was nearly three months old by then, and the police action marked a significant turning point. Reporters across the city tried to make sense of what they were seeing, and to properly explain the enormity of the moment: A subway station, once considered a safe space for commuters, had been breached; and the police, who just months earlier had been seen as trusted members of the community, had assaulted civilians despite no clear evidence of a major security threat.
At the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s largest English-language newspaper, the now-familiar breaking news scramble that would last until early the next morning was under way. How the paper handled that story has since become a source of tension among its journalists, sparking a controversy that is emblematic, many of them told me, of the broader conflicts over media freedoms in the territory as it faces an uncertain future. When I asked the paper’s executive editor about the episode, and more general questions about its protest coverage, he voraciously defended the outlet. Critics, he said, had tried to intimidate and bully SCMP journalists to “condition” the newspaper’s narrative to their own liking. “Should we bend to this kind of pressure?” he asked.
The SCMP is not as well read as the international outlets that it would like to compete with, but because of its unique position—as the main English-language outlet in a strategically important city—its coverage plays an outsize role in shaping international understanding of events not just in Hong Kong but across the border in China, as well.
An early draft of an initial story about the incident, according to a version that was read to me, had an opening that detailed “chaotic and shocking scenes” as officers went after “cowering commuters.” That was not the account that was eventually published, though. The SCMP’s edited story (which was subsequently updated) instead recounted how “elite Hong Kong police” had chased “radical protesters” wearing “masks” into the subway station.
The incident at the paper, recounted by two people with knowledge of the event, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution, exemplified the type of heavy-handed, slanted editing that became common in the SCMP newsroom as the demonstrations carried on. Journalists who spent hours, sometimes in a haze of tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets, saw their work drastically altered by editors before running in print and online. The police were typically portrayed as heroes, and the protesters as villains, with little explanation or context of each side’s motives and grievances. “That was frustrating,” one current reporter involved in coverage of the demonstrations told me. (This journalist, like others I spoke to, did not want to be identified, fearing a backlash from the SCMP.) With these stories appearing on the front page of the paper, the reporter said, “they’ve given an impression that SCMP is anti protesters. As journalists, we should never be pro or against protesters.”
Hong Kong has a long legacy of an aggressive and boisterous media, in both the dominant Cantonese language and English. Newspapers are widely read, and they often carry sharp critiques of government and police failures. Those freedoms have been a hallmark of the “one country, two systems” framework that has set the city apart from mainland China, where journalism is heavily censored and far less free.
Yet even before the recent enactment of a far-reaching national-security law in Hong Kong, the city’s media was under strain. Numerous mainstream outlets have been bought by China-backed figures or pro-establishment businesses, shrinking the diversity of voices. In recent years, vigilantes have carried out attacks against senior editors and Beijing has harassed officials from Cantonese newspapers. And since protests began last summer, the government in Hong Kong has also sought to curb journalists’ freedoms. Dissatisfied with honest accounts of official malfeasance, the authorities have sought to stifle some of the city’s most cutting voices. Radio Television Hong Kong, the government-funded broadcaster that operates akin to the BBC, drew an official rebuke when a reporter pressed a World Health Organization adviser over the contentious issue of Taiwan’s inclusion in the global body and after its long-running satirical program took aim at the Hong Kong police. That program, Headliner, has since been suspended. Top newsroom executives have stepped down, and the broadcaster is now under government review. Police continue to harass journalists reporting on protests, which have shrunk dramatically in size and frequency due to a combination of the pandemic, new police tactics, and the national security law.
Read: The leader who killed her city
The new law has worsened the climate further. Reporters and editors in Hong Kong have been left wondering what journalistic activity may now constitute a crime, and they have received few assurances from the city’s leaders. A number of local newspaper columnists have resigned from their positions, fearing that they may fall afoul of the national-security law. This month, The New York Times announced that it would move a portion of its staff to South Korea, a decision that is likely to be followed by other foreign outlets; at least three major Western news organizations, including the Times and The Wall Street Journal, are facing delays in securing new visas or visa renewals for their staff, according to people familiar with the details who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. “The purpose of the law is precisely to manufacture a climate of fear among all the governed here,” Kwai-Chueng Lo, the head of the writing program at Hong Kong Baptist University who has researched Hong Kong’s media, told me.
The SCMP sits at the center of many of these tensions. Founded in 1903, when Hong Kong was a British colony, the newspaper has long been the broadsheet of the city’s elites, “the paper to be gripped while riding the bus or to be seen on one’s doorstep in the morning,” the veteran journalist Yuen-ying Chan wrote in an academic article examining Hong Kong’s English-language media. Even beyond China, the SCMP has stood apart, operating free from the onerous press restrictions enforced in other Asian countries such as Singapore. Today, it is arguably the city’s most important title internationally, a position gained from a combination of both its size and its ownership (it is controlled by Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group, one of China’s most successful tech companies).
But last year’s protests tested the paper, as the global media spotlight shifted to Hong Kong, and the SCMP’s reporters found themselves butting up against senior editors who often appeared to be overly deferential to authorities and largely unquestioning of police narratives, even as evidence of misconduct mounted.
Largely due to its association with Hong Kong’s establishment, and that establishment’s growing reliance on business dealings with mainland China, the SCMP has always been a more staid outlet than its Cantonese counterparts. Through the late 1980s and into the mid-2000s, the paper was owned by the media tycoon Rupert Murdoch and then the Malaysian billionaire Robert Kuok, and while SCMP veterans often speak of a bygone golden era in which the paper was more critical, there have in fact long been instances that gave rise to questions about its editorial stance and censorship.
When Alibaba purchased the paper in 2015, the company brought an infusion of much-needed cash. The SCMP hired additional staff, moved into new offices (complete with an on-site pub), and expanded editorial offerings, including the tech-focused Abacus and Goldthread, a video-heavy vertical that reports on Chinese culture. The paper—long a must-read for English-language China watchers, its coverage being far more credible than any mainland outlet—expanded its ambitions, courting a global readership hungry for news from China by dropping its paywall and eventually beefing up its team of China-based reporters to around 50. In 2018, it announced a tie-up with Politico that Gary Liu, the SCMP’s CEO, said in an internal email was a sign of the newspaper’s “growing credibility and authority.” (The SCMP has approached The Atlantic about coproducing events in the U.S. and Hong Kong, according to a spokeswoman for The Atlantic, but the partnership has never materialized. In recent years, the SCMP has also spoken to The Washington Post, according to a person familiar with the matter. A spokesperson for the Post did not respond to request for comment.)
Thanks to those factors, as well as drastically increased interest in China, where, of course, the coronavirus pandemic began, the SCMP has seen a sharp rise in readership. Though its daily print circulation is relatively limited, at just over 100,000, it averages more than 50 million monthly active users—a tenfold increase over the past three years—and nearly 200 million pageviews a month. Around a third of that audience is in the United States, Liu said in a podcast interview with Digiday. Yet despite the largesse of its ownership, SCMP remains at the whim of the media market: The newspaper is unprofitable, Liu said during a Recode podcast, and its reliance on advertising has “set off alarm bells.” Staff were recently forced to take unpaid leave for three weeks, and management pay was cut. The SCMP is hoping to open up other revenue streams and will soon reintroduce its paywall.
Read: Hong Kong is a colony once more
Over the course of its history, the SCMP has largely fought off English-language challengers, both in Hong Kong and elsewhere in the region. Today, its position atop Hong Kong’s English media scene is largely unrivaled, but its ambitious goals—and its new ownership—have brought greater scrutiny, which the paper does not always seem comfortable with. In particular, there are questions about whether the 117-year-old institution could someday resemble the propaganda outlets trumpeting the party line over the border in China. Liu, who joined the paper in 2017 from the tech company Digg, has consistently pushed back against these concerns. “There is an immediate assumption that because Alibaba is a Chinese company that they are going to meddle in editorial,” he said in the Digiday podcast. “That has never been the case.” Yet Liu has acknowledged how tenuous the paper’s editorial independence is. “If the laws of this city and the judiciary that protects those laws change to the point where there is no longer press freedoms in this city, the South China Morning Post will change,” he told Digiday. (The owners have spoken about how they think coverage should be driven: “A lot of journalists working with these Western media organisations may not agree with the system of governance in China, and that taints their view of coverage,” Joe Tsai, chairman of the SCMP’s board of directors and Alibaba’s executive vice chairman, said shortly after the sale was completed. “We see things differently, we believe things should be presented as they are.”)
Concerns have been raised over the newspaper’s ethics, and its willingness to cooperate with Beijing since the sale. In 2018, the SCMP faced backlash when it conducted a government-arranged interview of Gui Minhai—a Hong Kong bookseller and Swedish citizen who disappeared in 2015 and then reappeared in Chinese custody a year later—in a detention facility while guards loomed over him. Liu has stood behind the interview and article, arguing that the SCMP agreed to the interview after discussions with editors, that there were no strings attached, and that the newspaper made a point of highlighting that Gui was accompanied by security personnel. But Angela Gui, the bookseller’s daughter, told me she was unhappy with the paper’s decision and its continued defense of the interview, which she says Beijing orchestrated to advance its own misleading narrative about her father’s situation. “My father was, after years of illegal detention and torture, subjected to public humiliation by the Chinese government, and the SCMP was complicit by disseminating and legitimizing it as a ‘news story,’” she said.
When it comes to China, the SCMP’s overall coverage remains far from Communist Party mouthpieces such as China Daily or Global Times. Indeed, its website—like that of The Atlantic and other major Western publications, including the Times, the Journal, and others—is blocked on mainland China.
More illustrative has been its coverage of the Hong Kong protests, which proved to be an unexpected test for the paper. Liu told Recode that the newspaper strove to remove emotion from the reporting and editing of stories on the crisis. Those views were welcome on the opinion pages, Liu said, but not in the news section. “That separation for us is sacrament.”
However, nine current and former SCMP employees told me that the lines were often far less clear. Nearly all pointed to Yonden Lhatoo, the SCMP’s chief news editor—and among those responsible for editing the subway story—as an example. Lhatoo, a former TV journalist who was described by current and former colleagues as an abrasive and mercurial presence prone to angry outbursts and frequent shouting, is part of a trio of senior editors seen as contributing to a sometimes caustic newsroom environment. Lhatoo also writes a regular opinion column and news stories as well. His editing of various articles that recapped days of protest grated some journalists, particularly those reporting from the street. The tone was not missed by close readers of the newspaper. “There are choices of language and vocabulary that are in themselves a reflection of bias,” said Louisa Lim, a former Beijing correspondent for NPR who is now a senior lecturer at the Center for Advancing Journalism at the University of Melbourne, pointing to the use of terms like riot and rampage that often made it into the final versions of stories recounting protests.
Members of the newsroom were particularly unhappy with a story Lhatoo wrote in October that ran in the news section of the paper, pushing a theory popular among pro-Beijing figures that there was a “silent majority” in Hong Kong that was against the protests but had been scared into silence. They were concerned enough to request a meeting with senior editors after the story’s publication to discuss their concerns over Lhatoo and editing more broadly. Chow Chung Yan, the executive editor, and Zuraidah Ibrahim, the deputy executive editor, met with disgruntled staff, but “there was no attempt to try and reconcile anybody,” one person present at the meeting told me. “It was just, ‘This is the situation, if you don’t like it, there is the door.’” Over the course of the protests and in the months that followed, a number of journalists central to coverage did leave the newspaper, and at least one other editor is expected to depart shortly, according to people familiar with the matter. More recently, Lhatoo, in a May 16 column, urged Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, to take a page from Donald Trump’s book and strike back at “malicious journalists” by labeling them “fake news” and a “disgrace.” One former reporter likened it to “asking for an attack on press freedom itself.”
Read: The end of Hong Kong
Liu did not respond to a message seeking comment. The paper’s spokesman, Elgen Kua, sent a statement in response to a list of questions this month and suggested a visit to the outlet’s newsroom once Hong Kong is past its latest wave of COVID-19 cases. In a follow-up call, Kua said, despite not having seen the comments themselves, that remarks made by current and former SCMP employees to me were “quite libelous” and that Lhatoo had become the target of a “hate campaign,” something Lhatoo has addressed in his column. Shortly before this story was due to publish, and weeks after multiple interview requests were submitted, the SCMP made Chow available for an interview. Chow told me he believed The Atlantic was biased against the SCMP and in a combative interview, which lasted nearly 40 minutes, challenged the sourcing of this story, the timeline of when The Atlantic contacted the SCMP for comment, and defended the paper’s protest coverage as well as its editorial standards and newsroom culture. “I think actually, from the beginning, you already set your mind about the story angle,” he said. “From your line of questioning I have this worry that I don’t think the SCMP will get fair coverage and I also think some of your story is maybe based on incomplete information.”
“We occupy the middle ground, that means some people are bound to feel like their views are not the dominant views and they feel resentful for that,” he said of the paper’s position. When asked about the Gui story, Chow compared the editorial decision to ones news organizations make when they are invited on government-organized tours of Xinjiang, where China has carried out a brutal crackdown. Regarding the story recapping the subway incident, he said the article was updated numerous times to reflect the chaotic situation on the ground and the end result was a balanced recount of the events of the day.
Concerns over bias in favor of the authorities, particularly the Hong Kong Police Force, exist in the newsroom: In one case, a reporter who has landed numerous scoops for the newspaper on police actions, and has conducted a series of high-profile interviews, was ousted from a group chat with other journalists over concerns that she was possibly leaking information to the force, according to people familiar with the matter. (It was unclear if this ever occurred.) In another case, a story in June marking the anniversary of the protest movement featured a police officer who was injured by demonstrators when he was covered with unknown chemicals. The piece was similar to a report that ran in a recent issue of OffBeat, the police force’s official magazine, featuring the same officer. Another article in the series was an interview with a British police officer serving in Hong Kong that some in the newsroom felt gave him a free pass for police actions during the protests and played down his role in a property scandal unearthed by another outlet. “It’s not critical at all,” one current reporter told me of the interview. (Chow said that while he believed Hong Kong’s police had room for improvement, they had become demonized by the public and the voice of the force was often missing from media coverage of the protests. “If you draw the comparison between the Hong Kong police and the police in the U.S. and U.K. and any other part of the world,” he said “I would say they are not particularly bad.” Chow added that The Atlantic was “in a sense joining the bullying gang,” by singling out the SCMP’s police coverage because of the difficulties faced by reporters who wrote positively about the force.)
On the opinion side, the SCMP has withdrawn five stories purportedly written by Lin Nguyen, a fictitious personality who was part of a network of fake journalists exposed by the Daily Beast that published opinion pieces in various publications around the globe. The retractions came days after Alex Lo, a columnist based in Canada, unequivocally declared that the “US has been exposed for funding last year’s Hong Kong protests,” in a piece that was based on a Time magazine report and offered scant evidence to back up the claim, a popular narrative pushed by Beijing and Lam’s administration. Chow said the paper had committed a “slip of judgment,” when it came to the Nguyen stories, and emphasized that Lo’s piece ran in the opinion section, adding that the paper could not verify if “Time magazine’s story is true or not.” Kua said in his statement that the SCMP reviewed and strengthened its verification process for submissions in response to the Daily Beast revelations.
Still, concerns abound. As restrictions grow on international media in Hong Kong and across China, and smaller news organizations in the city are put under greater scrutiny—the founder of Hong Kong Free Press, an English-language outlet, argued in The Guardian that the confusion set out by the national-security law was “a feature, not a bug,” and was designed to push journalists to “self-censor”—the SCMP’s importance when it come to coverage of the country will only grow. How it manages the balance between these new, blurry, red lines and Hong Kong’s history of a free and open press will matter far beyond the territory’s borders.
Liu, Chow, other senior editors, and some journalists have bristled at criticism of the newspaper, lamenting that its ownership makes it an unfair target. Following a 2018 story in the Times that was critical of the SCMP, Liu sent an email to staff, reviewed by The Atlantic, in which he said the article “disappoints me, it does not surprise me,” and that it “misrepresents our mission and mischaracterizes our transformation.” (No corrections or clarifications have been made to the Times story.) At the end of his interview with The Atlantic, Chow offered a vague warning about writing critically about the newspaper. “The last thing I want to say is I hope your story can be factual. If it is not, if it is anyway defamatory to SCMP and our colleagues, we will defend ourselves,” he said. Asked how he would do this, Chow responded, “I don’t need to tell you, Tim. But I can tell you we will defend ourselves.”
Timothy McLaughlin is a Hong Kong–based contributing writer at The Atlantic.
در اوایل COVID-19 مستند وقتی که من هنوز هم بلند پروازانه در مورد پیدا کردن راه های خلاق برای سرگرم کردن کودک نو پا من دو سال و نیم-و من یک هنر و صنایع دستی پروژه ساخت “اژدها” از کاغذ حوله لوله. ما درو چشم و دندان روی مقوا لوله—سوراخ در انتهای شد دهان—و با استفاده از لوله پاک کن به آنها مهرههای کمر و پاها. این یک موفقیت بزرگ بود. دختر من عاشق کاغذی-حوله-tube اژدها. آنها به سرعت به او پیوست اسباب بازی های مورد علاقه مجموعه ای از پلاستیک “Peppa خوک” مجسمه. او وانمود که یکی از “Peppa خوک” شخصیت خانم خرگوش بود یک مربی اژدها پرواز در اطراف در dragons’ پشت. یک روز او به نظر می رسید برای گرفتن ایده. او ایستاده بود و کاغذی-حوله-tube اژدها به صورت عمودی در آن دم و مرتب از دست خرگوش در حالت نشسته روی سوراخ که در آن ، سپس او ساخته sh-h-h صدا و بانگ زد: “اوه ، خانم خرگوش peed در اژدها!”
من مطمئن نیستید که چگونه به پاسخ. ما به تازگی آغاز شده و اسان-آموزش: این اعلام کرده بود به وضوح در مورد آن است. من نمی خواهم به شرم او است. اما من همچنین فروش ، پس از جمع آوری افکار من, من خطاب پلاستیک اسم حیوان دست اموز در یک روشن, مفید, صدای: “خانم خرگوش آن است که شما می خواهید به استفاده از احمقانه. اما آن را خوب به ادرار در اژدها خود را. او را به دوستان خود. چرا شما نمی آبیاری به طور منظم در یک کاغذ حوله لوله?”
دختر من فکر کردم که این خنده دار بود. او بلافاصله می خواستم برای انجام کل درام—Miss خرگوش اژدها سواری که ادرار را سرزنش—همه را دوباره و دوباره. خانم خرگوش Pees در اژدها پیوست پانتئون مورد علاقه خود را بازی همراه با آمبولانس و جشن تولد. هنگامی که شریک زندگی من به پایان رسید و صبح خود را با زوم تماس و آمد پایین برای کودک-مراقبت از دست های او می پرسند: “چگونه از دست خرگوش ؟ او ادرار در اژدها دوباره؟” و پس از آن او می خواهم به آن بازی بیش از حد.
من اولین کسی نیستم که به توجه داشته باشید که برای همه درد این همه گیر است و تحمیل در کار پدر و مادر COVID-19 مستندات به ما داده اند چیزی قابل توجه: ساعت ها و ساعت ها بدون ساختار زمان پخش با فرزندان ما. من می خواهم فکر می کردم که من قبل از این—در تعطیلات آخر هفته و در رفتند ساعت بین شام و خواب—اما با نگاهی به گذشته بود که هیچ چیز نیست. در سه plus ماه است که شریک زندگی من و من صرف به دام افتاده در خانه با ما دختر های کودک-مراقبت از وظایف من کاملا مطمئن هستم که ما تا به حال مغز ما بخواهند صفحاتی دوباره مرتب. زمان شروع به گشودن در یک, کند, trippy راه است که من تا به حال تجربه از دوران کودکی است. خانه ما تبدیل به یک فرمت از دو سال از فانتزی زندگی یک محل که در آن مبهم و مه آلود ایده های در مورد جهان خارج آمیخته با حقایق در مورد حیوانات خانگی و آداب و رسوم و صحنه از کارتون های مورد علاقه.
کسانی که کاریکاتور شامل “Peppa خوک” البته و این روزها به همان اندازه جذاب نشان می دهد با همان سازندگان “بن & هالی کمی پادشاهی.” اما مورد علاقه من—و بیشتر مربوط به وضع فعلی—است “Bluey” یک استرالیایی سری شامل یک خانواده از انسان heeler سگ—مادر پدر دو دختر کوچک—زندگی در شکوه حومه شهر بریزبن. (دیزنی به دست آورد بسیاری از نشان می دهد بین المللی پخش حقوق در سال 2019. فصل دوم آن برای اولین بار در ایالات متحده در ماه جولای.) این نمایش حول محور بازی. بسیاری از آن هفت تا هشت دقیقه قسمت مرکز را باور سناریو که بچه ها Bluey و یکنوع بازی شبیه لوتو عمل اغلب با پدر و مادر خود را به عنوان حمایت از شخصیت های. اگر چه کودکان و نوجوانان بیش از کودکان و نوجوانان بازی های خود را خرس تشخیص غرابت: در یوگا توپ آنها قرار شال و کلاه آفتاب در یوگا توپ و وانمود کند که این یک خیال است. در مارچوبه یک تکه مارچوبه می شود یک عصای جادویی است که می تواند اعضای خانواده را به حیوانات وحشی. این قسمت نقطه اوج در خصوص توالی خنده دار که در آن یکنوع بازی شبیه لوتو و مادر تبدیل به شیر و ساقه خود را همسایه ای که او را حلق آویز کردن لباس های شسته شده خود را.
جای تعجب نیست که نشان می دهد این است که بر اساس شرایط واقعی بازی است که خالق آن جو Brumm, بازی های برگزار شده با دو دختر جوان. در زوم گفتگو Brumm به من گفت که او می خواست به تصرف خود “واقعی ویژه راه است که کودکان و نوجوانان بازی”—به عنوان مخالف به راه است که ما بزرگسالان تصور کنید که آنها در حال پخش: در حال اجرا در اطراف و فریاد “Tag!,” شاید و یا quizzing خود را در الفبای. این ایده را به او در اوایل صبح جلسات بازی در حالی که همسرش خواب بود. “شما می خواهم به خودتان پیدا کنید در این عجیب و غریب, Monty Python-esque حالات,” او گفت:. “شما می دانید, آن را در پنج صبح و به طور ناگهانی شما را در خود کافه توزیع آنها و آنها در حال توزیع پول شما برگشت. و من فقط فکر کردم این خنده دار است.”
Brumm با اشاره به این که وجود یک “ذاتی کمدی” در راه است که کودکان و نوجوانان بازی, زیرا اغلب بازی های خود را به صورت جدی در حال تلاش برای دوباره ایجاد هر دو زندگی خود را و جهان بزرگسالان است. اما دانش خود را از جهان محدود است—به طوری که آنها بداهه نوازی. “هنگامی که آنها به یک بیت آنها را درک نمی کنند آنها فقط جایگزین چیزی از تخیل خود را به نوع صاف آن را بیش از” Brumm گفت. (به عنوان یک نویسنده او هماهنگ به زبان این تخیل به خصوص وقتی که می آید به ساخت نام: قد بلند, قد Dobber, Sharalanda, Boop Boop Bop Boop.) در یک قسمت به نام “دکتر” یکنوع بازی شبیه لوتو نقش یک دکتر و Bluey نقش پزشکی پذیرش. دوستان خود را در حال حاضر خود را با رژه خیالی آفات: عقرب نیش; سلاح کاهش یافته است; “من به طور تصادفی خوردند یک کرگدن. و در حال حاضر زمانی که من آروغ من آروغ کودک hippopotamuses.” این درمان طبیعی بیماری, با, دکتر, تلفظ, “نگران نباشید ما به شما ثابت در یک لحظه!” و منشی عبور از lollipops. “اینها چیزهایی است که بزرگسالان پیدا خنده دار” Brumm گفت. “و من آن را بی وقفه جذاب چون جوهر از سفر به مطب دکتر. این همه جزئیات, اما این مسائل مهم است. و این باعث می شود شما آن را ببینید تازه است.”
Brumm تحقیق روانشناسی بازی و در مورد نقش آن در اوایل دوران کودکی توسعه—به خصوص در راه است که آن را به کودکان می آموزد به حرکت در زندگی اجتماعی است. اغلب بچه ها در “Bluey” خواهد بود یک بازی زمانی که آنها می آیند به یک نقطه از مشاجره: در “Grannies” آنها تظاهر به خانم ها زمانی که آنها به بحث در مورد اینکه آیا مادربزرگ می توانید با انجام یک حرکت رقص شناخته شده به عنوان نخ. در “هتل” Bluey می خواهد یکنوع بازی شبیه لوتو بازی “crazy هتل یاور” اما یکنوع بازی شبیه لوتو می خواهد به یک “دیوانه بالش.” آنها باید برای حل و فصل اختلافات خود به بازی ادامه دهد. Brumm توضیح داد: “این روند قادر به بحث با بچه های دیگر و رسیدن به یک توافق—انجام است که روز را از سن سه تا پنج است که چگونه آنها در نهایت گرفتن اجتماعی. آن را واقعا دوست داشتنی چرا که آنها آن را انجام دهد به طور طبیعی. شما لازم نیست به گام و بگو: سلام شما نیاز به گرفتن همراه است.’ “
در نشان دادن پدر و مادر ها گاهی اوقات با ارنج زدن بچه ها در مسیر درست است. در “مادربزرگ” و فلفل Bluey مادر به او می گوید “شما در حال رفتن به باید تصمیم بگیرید: آیا شما می خواهید به سمت راست و یا آیا شما می خواهید یکنوع بازی شبیه لوتو به خاطر بازی با شما؟” Bluey مورد آن فکر می کند و می پرسد: “آیا من می توانم هر دو؟”—که پدر و مادر او پاسخ “نه!” هر قسمت از “Bluey” به طور کلی در نقطه اوج خفیف درس زندگی. اخلاق است اجتناب شود. Brumm گفت که او کشیده به بینش است که “کاملا متضاد با منطق.” در “پنجه” راهزن Bluey پدر وانمود به یک بازی و تلاش او برای تدریس به بچه ها درس در مورد خطرات قمار. آن نتیجه معکوس و آنها را تا پایان pelting او را با اسباب بازی پر شده. “آیا ما به یاد بگیرند که هر چیزی امروز؟” فلفل می پرسد ، “بله” راهزن می گوید. “این بچه ها بسیار جذاب هستند.”
جالب است فکر می کنم در مورد چگونه COVID-19 تحت تاثیر فرایند یادگیری به تصویر کشیده شده در “Bluey.” بیش از چند ماه گذشته دختر من بوده است و محروم از همبازی سن خود را. اما ما تا به حال یک زمان خوب با هم. و پدر و من را کشف کرده اند درونی ما دو ساله. Brumm پذیرفته تا حدودی guiltily که این مستند در خانه خود در بریزبن شده بود و شاعرانه. “این بسیار شبیه به آنچه که من تصور نوزده-پنجاه بود اما با بیشتر iPads,” او گفت:. آنها نامه نوشت و برای افراد مسن و افرادی که زندگی خود را در خیابان قرار داده و آنها را در صندوق پستی. “بچه ها در باغ زیادی است. آنها با یکدیگر است. آنها مشاهده پیله تخم و پیدا کردن پرندگان مرده در استخر است.” (مرده پرنده تبدیل به یک زندگی موش بوش.) مانند دیگر پدر و مادر او نگاه کرد و با ترس بچه ها اقتباس به جهان به شدت تغییر یکپارچه سازی زبان های بهداشت و اجتماعی فاصله به بازی های خود را. آنها می خواهم به بازی با عروسک و آنها را به نام دختران خود را. “دختران خواهد بود که بیش از playdates و آن خواهد بود, مانند, ‘O. K. همه مطمئن شوید که شما نشستن شش فوت از هم جدا. و شما باید برای شستن دست های خود را!’ “
بود وجود دارد یک درس در این ؟ Brumm mused “یکی از آنها این است که بچه ها نمی نیاز به یک معامله بزرگ است. شما می دانید ؟ تمام این چیزهایی که ما را نگه داشته و تفکر ضروری بود”—خرید گشت و گذار playdates سفرهای به نهادهای فرهنگی—”هنگامی که گرفته شده بود از روی میز آنها فقط آن را و آنها خوشحال بودند.” این درس مانند صدا نوع از چیزی که می تواند به یک قسمت از “Bluey.” اما Brumm گفت که همه گیر می شود ساخت ظاهر در آینده شود. “شما می دانید چه ؟ در حالی که وجود داشته اند بسیاری از مثبت من خونین نفرت این چیز. و هنگامی که آنها خلاص شدن از آن, من فکر نمی کنم من می خواهم به بحث در مورد آن است.”
The 2020 election undoubtedly offers Democrats their best chance yet to reclaim state legislative chambers across the country.
Although hardly any of the governors grappling with the fiercest coronavirus outbreaks are on the ballot this fall, voters’ verdicts about their performance loom heavily over another electoral battle with enormous implications for the balance of power between the parties over the next decade: the struggle for control of state legislatures.
In polls, voters have given higher marks to Democratic governors who have moved cautiously on reopening than to Republicans who reopened early in response to President Donald Trump’s cues. That may offer Democrats their best chance to overcome the GOP’s entrenched advantage in state legislatures—which next year will draw local legislative and congressional-district lines that will govern elections through 2030.
“COVID-19 and the concerns that surround that—everything from the health concerns people have to concerns about the economy and school—it’s the issue in the 2020 campaign, without a doubt,” Bob Trammell, the Democratic minority leader in the Georgia House of Representatives, told me, echoing the sentiment of Democrats elsewhere. Governor Brian Kemp, one of the Republicans who reopened early, “may not be on the ballot,” Trammell added, but “his response to COVID is very much on the ballot.”
Democrats still face significant obstacles in erasing the Republican lead in state legislatures. The GOP has a big cushion: It now controls 59 state legislative chambers, compared with just 39 for Democrats, according to figures from the National Conference of State Legislatures. In some key state House chambers, such as Florida and Georgia, Democrats must win so many seats that a takeover remains plausible only if the election produces a towering Democratic landslide. And in many states, Democrats must overcome both a substantial Republican financial advantage and gerrymandered district maps that were designed precisely to preserve GOP majorities.
Read: The Democrats whose 2020 goal is grander than the presidency
But the 2020 election—coming as both Trump and many Republican governors face howling discontent over their handling of the coronavirus crisis—undoubtedly offers Democrats their best chance yet to recover from their catastrophic state-level losses in the 2010 election.
That year, the Tea Party–led backlash against then–President Barack Obama—particularly his passage of the Affordable Care Act—powered Republicans to historic gains in Congress and in state legislative and gubernatorial races across the country. Republicans added more than 700 state legislative seats, boosting the number of chambers they controlled from 36 to 60. Combined with the GOP gains in governor’s races, that advance swelled the number of states in which Republicans controlled all the levers of government from nine to 21.
The 2010 losses could not have come at a worse time for Democrats, because Republicans having unified control in many states meant they had a free hand to control redistricting. (The exception: states that rely on independent commissions or other means to determine districts.) The GOP drew aggressive maps that guaranteed their grip on state legislatures for the ensuing decade, including in North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
Though Republicans’ state-level advantage has cracked some since Trump took office—because of both a demographic change favoring Democrats and a suburban backlash against his turbulent presidency—it hasn’t crumbled. Democrats have regained about 300 state legislative seats nationwide since Trump’s election, but Republicans retain a 400-seat edge overall. And although the 2018 election of Democratic governors in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania ended the complete GOP control of those states, Republicans still hold all the levers of power in 21 others, including the Sun Belt behemoths of Texas and Florida. Both states are projected to gain congressional seats after 2020, as is North Carolina, where Republicans hold both legislative chambers and where state law denies the governor, the Democrat Roy Cooper, any role in redistricting. (Democrats hold unified control in just 15 states.)
Now the headwinds buffeting Trump and several Republican governors are offering Democrats the same opportunity the GOP seized in 2010: the chance to post big state-level gains in the election immediately before the decennial reapportionment and redistricting.
With those stakes, Democrats are pursuing a wide range of state-level targets in both the Sun Belt and the Rust Belt. Party strategists believe they have the best chance to dislodge current Republican majorities in the Minnesota state Senate; the state Houses in Texas, Michigan, and Iowa; and one or both chambers in Arizona, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. The GOP advantage now stands at six seats or fewer in all of those chambers except the Texas and Pennsylvania houses, where the Republican cushion is nine seats each. Democratic groups are contesting Florida and Georgia as well, but with the bigger GOP margins there (14 seats in Florida and 16 in Georgia), they remain a tougher climb.
Common threads connect these contests. Across all of these states, Democrats are almost entirely targeting white-collar suburban seats that have moved away from the GOP in the Trump era. In Texas, for instance, where Democrats gained 12 suburban state House seats in 2018, the party’s remaining targets for 2020 are preponderantly concentrated in the Houston and Dallas suburbs, including eight Republican-held districts that Beto O’Rourke won in his 2018 Senate bid and seven more that he lost by four percentage points or less. Likewise, in Georgia, where Democrats won 14 suburban Atlanta house seats in 2018, the party is again targeting the diverse and growing Cobb and Gwinnett Counties outside the city, where Stacey Abrams ran well in her 2018 gubernatorial race.
That pattern shapes the interaction between the state legislative races and the presidential contest. For the legislative races, the key question isn’t whether Trump or the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, wins a given state; it’s how Trump and Biden perform in the specific seats Democrats are targeting, particularly in major metropolitan regions. Even if Trump holds states such as Georgia, Texas, and Arizona by maximizing his rural performance, Democrats could still get a huge boost in down-ballot races if Biden routs the president in the growing urban and suburban areas. Biden’s performance in big metros is “the whole ball game,” Vicky Hausman, the founder and co-CEO of Forward Majority, a Democratic group that tries to flip state chambers, told me. “Trump can run up the score in the rural areas, and it doesn’t impact our path to the majority through the suburbs.”
Read: How to lose a swing state
The other common thread in these races is that the pandemic has made the functioning of state government seem far more relevant to voters’ lives than it did before. For example, the public-health crisis has provided a vivid backdrop for the calls from Democratic candidates to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act in the states that have refused to do so, including Texas, Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina. Even more, the outbreak has put a spotlight on governors’ decision-making, with Democrats generally moving faster to close down their economies in the spring and more cautiously reopen them this summer, and Republican governors, especially across the Sun Belt, almost uniformly doing the opposite.
Those choices have produced a divergence in governors’ public approval. Recent polls in Florida and Arizona found the approval ratings for Republican governors Ron DeSantis of Florida and Doug Ducey of Arizona both tumbling to around 40 percent. Recent surveys in Texas have found Republican Governor Greg Abbott relatively stronger, at just under 50 percent, but that figure still represents a big decline from earlier in his tenure, as many voters disapprove of his handling of the outbreak. A poll released Wednesday in Georgia found that although just more than half of voters statewide approve of Kemp’s handling of the outbreak, nearly three-fifths disapprove in likely swing counties, which include the big Atlanta suburbs. Likewise, Ducey faces a stinging 17-point net disapproval in Maricopa County, the epicenter of both Arizona’s outbreak and the battle for control of the state legislature.
Democratic governors in the key states are generally scoring better: Recent public polls found that about three-fifths of voters gave positive job-approval marks to Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan, Cooper in North Carolina, and Tom Wolf in Pennsylvania, while almost two-thirds approve of Tim Walz in Minnesota.
Trump’s diminished standing in many of the targeted state districts reinforces the disparity in public opinion between Republican and Democratic leaders. The nonpartisan Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape project samples enough voters each week to assess attitudes down to the county level over time. In an analysis for The Atlantic, based on combined results from early May to mid-July, it found that Trump’s approval rating stood at only about 40 percent or less in Harris and Dallas Counties in Texas, as well as in Hillsborough (Tampa) and Orange (Orlando) Counties in Florida. His approval was just above 40 percent in Maricopa. The poll showed Biden leading Trump in all of those counties.
Jessica Post, the president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, summed up the polls’ significance this way: Republican legislative candidates must overcome not only long-standing discontent with Trump in the suburbs, but also new unease about their governors. “It is going to be impossible for Republicans to overcome their [party] affiliation, because it’s localized,” she told me.
Particularly in the Sun Belt states buckling under massive virus outbreaks—since June 30, the number of cases has roughly doubled in Arizona and Georgia, increased by a factor of 2.5 in Texas, and nearly tripled in Florida—Democratic challengers are aggressively tying their Republican opponents to the decisions of GOP governors.
In Texas, for instance, Ann Johnson, a former prosecutor in the Harris County district attorney’s office who is running for a Houston-area state House seat, doesn’t mince words in indicting Abbott for his role in Texas’s raging coronavirus outbreak.
“At a moment of crisis, where he got to choose whether he stood with Trump and the extreme version of his party or our medical community, [Abbott] picked Trump and the extreme version of his party, with thousands of Texans paying the price with their lives for it,” Johnson says.
That language is extraordinary: Since Abbott’s election in 2014, he has been so popular in Texas that few politicians in either party have openly tangled with him.
Democratic state-legislative candidates have been equally aggressive in challenging DeSantis’s performance in Florida. “There was not a single scintilla of science or leadership that was displayed, and as the president continued to be the denier in chief, our governor was standing right there next to him,” says Kayser Enneking, an anesthesiologist and the Democratic nominee for a GOP-held state House seat centered on Gainesville. “And our whole legislative Republican contingent had their heads in the sand equally. The legislature has been in lockstep” with the governor.
Read: The blue wave hasn’t crested
Ryan Tyson, a Republican pollster in Florida, agrees that approval for DeSantis and Trump alike has fallen amid the state’s surging case numbers. But he says that hasn’t yet translated into “voting intention” for Democrats. Although Floridians are uneasy about the outbreak, he says, other issues—such as Trump’s emphasis on “law and order” and warnings about urban disorder—also are resonating. And whatever the immediate mood, he notes, the GOP state House and Senate majorities are bolstered by a massive fundraising advantage over Democrats. “With the caveat that I think 30 days out we’ll know whether the bottom has fallen out for us or not, as of today, I could see us picking up two seats in the state House,” he says. Democrats flipping the chamber, he predicts, remains “a bridge too far.”
Similarly, Bill Miller, an Austin-based consultant and lobbyist who has worked for candidates in both parties, says that although the pandemic has hurt Texas Republicans, he believes Democrats will still fall short of taking the state House, largely because increased focus on the party’s national agenda closer to Election Day “will be problematic … in this state.”
Democratic strategists I’ve spoken with are more optimistic about their prospects, but they agree the GOP’s financial advantages in several targeted state Houses could prove decisive. Hausman said that in the most recent quarter, Democratic challengers in the targeted races raised only 60 percent, on average, as much as their Republican opponents in Texas, and just 30 percent what their opponents raised in Florida.
“There are no giveaways,” she said. “This is not going to happen naturally because of a Biden win. As it stands now, Democrats are not poised to win the big wins where it matters most unless they step up and invest the big resources that are necessary.”
The urgency in her warning reflects the stakes of failure for Democrats in these contests. Particularly across the fast-growing Sun Belt states, if Democrats win control of at least one state legislative chamber, they could negotiate for state legislative and congressional maps that reflect both their growing suburban strength and the states’ increasing racial diversity. But if Republicans retain control of the mapmaking, they could draw district lines that fortify their eroding majorities in those states.
That doesn’t mean Republicans will control those states in the 2020s as lopsidedly as they did in the 2010s—underlying demographic changes are probably too great for that—but it does mean that Democrats will be pushed back toward the bottom of the hill and face another decade-long climb in both state and congressional contests. “If you control the mapmaking process, it enables you to hold the line,” says Jim Henson, the director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.
Which is why both parties recognize that so much is on the line in the state legislative contests unfolding in the shadow of the pandemic this November.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.
Ronald Brownstein is a senior editor at The Atlantic.