Museum of America in the Pandemic Year, 2020

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Oct 14: Amy Comey Barret’s confirmation hearing goes into its last day. She refuses to say where she stands on abortion, immigration, or the Affordable Care Act. Her previous judgments incline people to believe that she will take a conservative stand on all hot button issues. Early voting continues at an unprecedented rate. news breaks that Amy Cooper, the white woman who called the police on May 25 to falsely claim that Christian Cooper, a black man, had threatened her, actually made a second call claiming that he assaulted her. She is charged with a third-degree misdemeanor and her actions are described as exhibiting, “racist criminal conduct.” About 5.2 million Americans won’t be able to vote in the November election due to felony convictions, according to a report released by the Sentencing Project. Wells Fargo fires more than 100 employees for improperly receiving coronavirus relief funds

Oct 15: Trump and Biden hold separate town halls after the idea for another debate is scrapped. WHO calls the White House acceptance of and approach to herd immunity “unethical.” “Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic. It is scientifically and ethically problematic.” The United States reports 60,000 new COVID-19 cases, a number not reached since early August. Jobless claims hit 898,000 last week, also the most since late August.

From the Cutting Room Floor ...

Throughout Trump’s performance in Miami, a woman in a white top sitting behind Trump’s left shoulder vigorously nods and signals thumbs-ups. She is out of focus, but she is so animated that she regularly steals the shot. Right-wing-Twitter signals their excitement over her presence. “It’s excellent to have a Black woman nodding in agreement,” Trumps supporters declare.

She is, on the one hand, tokenized in this moment—an easy signal of Trump’s innocence when it comes to his handling of race relations in America. Republicans and Trump supporters can see her nodding and say to themselves, “See, Trump is good to the Black people.” Trump reiterates this message when he says during the performance that he has “done more for the African American community than any president with the exception of Abraham Lincoln.”[1] These are indeed the moments when this country’s aversion to studying its history directly shapes its present.

At the same time, the woman’s nodding reminds us that there is no, single, voting block that is reserved for all Black Americans. The same applies to Latin American communities, who, depending on their life experiences, find common cause with the left and the right. After the townhall has ended, the woman turns on her Facebook video and is clearly star struck when Trump speaks to her. She composes herself and asks him to build a golf course in the Dominican Republic. When she mentions “Dominican Republic,” Trump responds “Sammy Sosa” and makes a batting swing. Someone else asks Trump how he is going to help with jobs and evictions in the middle of the coming economic calamity. The president ignores that question-asker.

It could be, in our celebrity-obsessed culture that the only thing that matters tonight is television ratings. We don’t have any way to assess a candidate upon their vision for the country nor their ability to actually get things done in this complex legislating environment, perhaps. So, as if it matters, the first polls seem to suggest that Biden won.[2] This might signal that the magic is wearing off of Trump. But I’m more cynical: all it means is that we believe getting views on television or likes on social media somehow translates to running the country competently. If the last few years hasn’t disabused us of that conception, I don’t know what will.


[1] Alex Daugherty, “Woman Who Nodded, Gave Thumbs up behind Trump in Miami Ran Pro-Trump Campaign in 2018,” Miami Herald, October 15, 2020,

[2] Meaghan Ellis, “Trump Brags about Good Town Hall Reviews — but Ratings Signal a Town Hall Win for Biden,” RawStory, October 16, 2020,; Jeffery Martin, “Town Hall YouTube Views Suggest Biden Hit Trump Where It Hurts Him Most—Ratings,” Newsweek, October 15, 2020,

Read more

Sky News. US Election 2020: Donald Trump’s Town Hall – the Highlights.

Joe Biden pressed whether he would take a COVID-19 vaccine,” ABC News Town Hall, October 15, 2020,

“Breonna Taylor’s Boyfriend Kenneth Walker Details the Night of Her Death in an Exclusive Interview,” CBS This Morning, October 14, 2020.

“Controversy In California Over Republican-Installed Unofficial Ballot Boxes, ” NBC Nightly News, October 13, 2020,


Cunningham, Meg, and Quinn Scanlan. “5 Key Takeaways from Joe Biden’s Town Hall with ABC News.” ABC News, October 16, 2020.

Morin, Rebecca. “After Town Hall Wraps up, Biden Sticks around to Take Questions from Audience.” USA TODAY, October 15, 2020.

Stewart, Emily. “Savannah Guthrie Delivered the Trump Interview We’ve Been Wanting for Years.” Vox, October 15, 2020.

Yglesias, Matthew. “The Delightful Boringness of Joe Biden.” Vox, October 15, 2020.

Glasser, Susan B. “The Presidential Town Halls Were Mister Rogers Versus Nasty Uncle Trump.” The New Yorker, October 16, 2020.

Martin, Jeffery. “Town Hall YouTube Views Suggest Biden Hit Trump Where It Hurts Him Most—Ratings.” Newsweek, October 15, 2020.

Rosen, Christopher. “Jimmy Kimmel Rips NBC for Hosting Trump Town Hall Opposite ABC’s Biden Event.” Vanity Fair, October 15, 2020.

Andreeva, Nellie. “Top Actors & Showrunners Ask NBC To Move Donald Trump Town Hall From Slot Opposite ABC’s Joe Biden Special.” Deadline (blog), October 15, 2020.

Harris, Shane, Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller, and Josh Dawsey. “White House Was Warned Giuliani Was Target of Russian Intelligence Operation to Feed Misinformation to Trump.” Washington Post, October 15, 2020.

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