Museum of America in the Pandemic Year, 2020

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Oct 27: The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy claims that “ending the Covid-19 pandemic” has been one of the accomplishments of the Trump presidency. In a memo, the office says that “[e]nding the Covid-19 pandemic”  is one of Trump’s major accomplishments. Hundreds of people protest in Philadelphia for a second night following the fatal police shooting of Walter Wallace, a 27-year-old Black man. Early voting has reach half of the total voters in the 2016 election. 

Oct 28:  In their investigation into the $250m PR campaign launched by Health and Human Services in September to “deafeat despair” over COVID, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform concludes that Administration Officials tried to use the campaign to help Trump get re-elected. In a letter addressed to Alex Azar, head of HHS, (see below for the full letter),  they state that the HHS has failed to produce requested documentation on the massive campaign. Based on evidence collected from the contracted marketing firms, they show that Trump staffer, Michael Caputo, inserted, “partisan political interests into the ad campaign.” They also show that Trump staffers created a “PR Celebrity List,” (see the appendix to the file in the ‘Documents’ section below) where they vetted potential celebrities for the campaign based on whether or not they support Donald Trump, as well as their stances on LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage.  This campaign was supposed to have been non-partisan, and about COVID.  U.S. stocks dive as a new one-day COVID case record is hit at 73,200. 

Oct 29: The United States experiences nearly 100,000 coronavirus cases in one day, the highest number of cases ever reported in a single day. 

Oct 30: Fauci warns that we are “in for a whole lot of hurt” this winter. President Trump falsely claims at a rally in Michigan that doctors are overcounting coronavirus deaths in order to make more money. A study of 18 Trump campaign rallies by the Department of Economics at Stanford University finds that the rallies  likely led to an additional 30,000 cases of COVID-19 and likely 700 deaths.  The New York Times reports that United States border officials have expelled migrant children from Central America and other countries into Mexico, even if they have no family connections in Mexico.

Oct 31: The Biden campaign cancels a Texas event after a caravan of President Trump’s supporters surrounded a Biden bus with their vehicles while traveling on Interstate 35 between San Antonio and Austin. Polls show Biden up in swing states. People who remember 2016 do not trust it.

Nov 1: Trump holds rallies in Michigan, Iowa, North Carolina, and Florida. Biden campaigns in Pennsylvania. The truth is, to beat the virus, we’ve first got to beat Donald Trump,” Biden says. During a campaign rally, President Trump suggests that he might try to fire Dr. Fauci. The crown chants, “”Fire Fauci!” Trump responds: “Don’t tell anybody but let me wait until a little bit after the election.” Trump tells supporters that “a great red wave is forming.” He continues to question the integrity of the election. 90 Million ballots have already been cast by mail or in-person early voting. A federal judge orders the U.S. Postal Service to remind senior managers they have to follow “extraordinary measures” to deliver ballots ahead of Tuesday’s presidential election. The Texas Supreme Court rejects a push by conservative activists and Republican candidates to pre-emptively throw out nearly 127,000 votes cast by drive-through voting in the largely Democratic Harris County, the state’s most populous. President Trump has told confidants he’ll declare victory on Tuesday evening if he’s leading the election, Axios report.

Nov 2: Biden holds rallies in Ohio and Pennsylviania. In Pittsburgh, he says, “We’re done with the chaos, we’re done with the tweets, the anger, the hate, the failure, the irresponsibility.” Trump, flouting anti-pandemic guidelines, holds large rallies in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, telling supports at one event: “This is not the crowd of a second-place finisher.” Early votes near 100 million. Governors Charlie Baker (R) of Massachusetts and Kate Brown (D) of Oregon on Monday order the National Guard to stand by in case of unrest following Tuesday’s presidential election. Twitter says it will post warning labels on tweets from any candidate that claims victory before the announcement of official results comes out. A federal judge in Chicago rejects a Trump administration rule seeking to deny green cards to immigrants receiving food stamps and other public benefits.  “Deborah Birx circulates an internal alarm to top White House and agency officials warning that the United States is “entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic … leading to increasing mortality.” She strongly criticizes directly condemns the White House for not implementing an “aggressive balanced approach.”  A study from the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that, even with a vaccine, it may be very difficult to vaccinate a majority of the country for SARS-CoV-2 to reach sufficient levels of immunity against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

From the Cutting Room Floor ...

This past weekend was Halloween, though, I have to say the fear in the air was more real than anything this holiday can conjure. The election is upon us. Lawns, pockmarked with signs, display a divided nation.

Most of my left-leaning friends express fear that this will be another 2016, where the polls say the Democrats are going to win by a comfortable margin, and then they lose. Since many of these friends live on the coasts, I am struck by a cynical thought. Sure, the threat of four more years under Trump is scary to them, but it’s abstract. Sure, they’re experiencing some minor vandalism, with yard signs disappearing.[2] Some of us, however, float on “blue” life rafts in the middle of “red” oceans. The threat is a little closer to home—literally. What we get to look forward to are somewhat more disconcerting incidents of “direct action.” Some will be private acts of intimidation, akin to what happened on I-35 between Austin and San Antonio this weekend when the “Alamo City Trump Train” surrounded a Biden/Harris campaign bus (the candidates were not on board), knocking into a car of one of the supporters and slowing the bus down. Other acts will be “government adjacent,” as in Alamance County, North Carolina, where white police wearing flak-jackets pepper sprayed and arrested members of a Black-led voter turnout march because they stood in front of the courthouse, blocking traffic for nine minutes. Police sprayed and arrested them because their permit was filed too late.[3] These sorts of very direct threats happen all-too regularly around here, unlike in comparatively sheltered New York City or New Haven or Seattle or San Francisco.

Retailers know it. Fears that there will be civil unrest on or just after voting day tomorrow led Walmart to pull guns and ammo from their shelves, and high-end retailers boarded up store windows.[4] Unbelievably, even toilet paper hoarding is happening again—like we are back in March.[5] These fears seem very widespread, in battleground states and in solidly Democratic or Republican states. Each group expresses different kinds of fear, however, and cites different kinds of evidence to support their fears. Whites from lower population towns, express fear that “they” will be coming into mostly white towns—only hinting that the threat is coming from another region with a larger Black or Latinx population.[6] Biden/Harris supporters fear their votes will be denied, police will harass them, or will fail to protect them from white males with guns. In a California poll, a full 88% of respondents believed violence was “very likely” or “somewhat likely” if the other party disputed the election.[7] A poll conducted by a UK organization found that three-quarters of the American population believed there would be violence, including large scale riots, on or after election day.[8] No one is surprised that National Guard reserves are being called to attention, just in case the nation breaks out into full fledged pandemonium.

Those who study the process of polarization note that the risk of riots is a possibility, actions by white nationalists, “accelerationists”—groups attempting to destabilize the country so much it devolves into civil conflict—and other domestic terrorist groups.[9] Both the FBI and the Justice Department are making plans to address these opportunists who might want to spread chaos more than vote for a positive outcome for the nation.[10] While much of the preparation of law enforcement and the election apparatus is focused on the kinds of voter intimidation tactics seen in 2016, there is a gigantic wildcard that was not nearly as pronounced last time–Donald J. Trump.[11] So much depends upon how the president handles the day and the results. If he again calls on the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, Three Percenters, or other white men LARPing with rifles to “stand back and stand by,” we could see isolated incidences even of armed violence in the polling locations themselves.

Maybe the fear of this possibility tomorrow is what I saw haunting the eyes of parents as their tiny unicorns, Disney princesses, PJ Mask characters, and Mandalorians approached my house, begging for candy, which I tossed at them from a safe distance.[12]


[1] Bryan Wassel, “Smaller Gatherings, Less Trick-or-Treating, Shape Shoppers’ Halloween Search Activity,” Retail TouchPoints (blog), October 23, 2020,

[2] Jenna Johnson, “The Latest Battlefield in a Heated Presidential Campaign: Front Yards Bearing Biden Signs,” Washington Post, August 29, 2020,

[3] “Alamance County Rally Organizer Plans Election Day March,” FOX 46 Charlotte (blog), November 1, 2020,

[4] Nathaniel Meyersohn, Alexis Benveniste, and Chauncey Alcorn, “From Tiffany to Target, Stores Are Boarding up Windows in Case of Election Unrest,” CNN, November 3, 2020,

[5] Trevor Hughes, “Americans Worried about Election Day Violence and Chaos Are Buying Guns and Toilet Paper,” USA TODAY, October 26, 2020,

[6] Christopher Maag, “Wilkes-Barre: In a City up for Grabs, Fear of Violence May Be an Illusion,” North Jersey Media Group, October 31, 2020,

[7] David Lauter, “Fears of Election Violence Are Widespread, Poll Finds,” Los Angeles Times, October 28, 2020,

[8] John T. Bennett, “Three-Quarters of Americans Fear Post-Election Violence and Riots, Independent Reveals,” The Independent, October 21, 2020,

[9] Daniel L. Byman and Colin P. Clarke, “Why the Risk of Election Violence Is High,” Brookings (blog), October 27, 2020,

[10] Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, “Justice Dept., FBI Planning for the Possibility of Election Day Violence, Voting Disruptions,” Washington Post, October 2, 2020,

[11] Alan Neuhauser, “Voter Intimidation Complaints Surge,” US News & World Report, November 8, 2016,; Chip Brownlee, “Election Officials Are Planning for Conflict They Hope Won’t Materialize,” The Trace, October 17, 2020,

[12] Michael Errigo, “Hoping for a Safer Halloween, This Cincinnati Dad Created a Candy Chute,” Washington Post, September 28, 2020,

Read more

President Trump Campaign Rally in Waterford Township, Michigan, October 30, 2020. 

Kurt Tocci, “HALLOWEEN in 2020 be like,” October 2, 2020,

Laurie Segall, “Militias, extremist groups fear election results could lead to violence,” CBS This Morning, October 2, 2020,

“We Talk to Steve Bannon About the 2020 Election’s Potential For Chaos,” VICE News, November 2, 2020,

Rachel Kleinfeld, “Should the US Worry About Political Violence in 2020 Elections,” Carnegie Endowment, October 14, 2020,

“‘Trump Train’ Ambushes Biden-Harris Campaign Bus in Texas,” NowThis News, November 1, 2020,

Siobhan Robbins, “US Election: Rival Trump and Biden supporters clash at Florida rally,” Sky News, October 30, 2020,

Allan Lichtman, “Historian who correctly predicted every election since 1984 makes his call,” Fox News, October 30, 2020,


Trump, speaking at a campaign rally in Michigan, October 30, 2020.

“You know in Germany if you have a bad heart and you’re ready to die or if you have cancer and you’re going to be dying soon, and you catch COVID, that happens we mark it down to COVID. You know our doctors get more money if somebody dies from COVID, you know that, right. I mean our doctors are very smart people. So what they do is they say is, I’m but you know sorry everybody dies of COVID. But in Germany and other places, if you have a heart attack or you have cancer, you’re terminally ill, you catch COVID, they say you died of cancer, you died of a heart attack. With us, when in doubt, choose COVID. It’s true, no it’s true. No, they’ll say, Oh it’s terrible what he said, but it’s true. It’s like $2,000 more. So you get more money. This could only happen to us.”


Zapotosky, Matt, and Devlin Barrett. “Justice Dept., FBI Planning for the Possibility of Election Day Violence, Voting Disruptions.” Washington Post, October 2, 2020.

Maag, Christopher. “Wilkes-Barre: In a City up for Grabs, Fear of Violence May Be an Illusion.” North Jersey Media Group, October 31, 2020.

Byman, Daniel L. and Colin P. Clarke. “Why the Risk of Election Violence Is High.” Brookings (blog), October 27, 2020.

Popken, Ben. “Walmart Removes Guns and Ammo from Shelves, Citing ‘Isolated Civil Unrest.’” NBC News, October 29, 2020.

Linton, Caroline. “FBI Investigating after Trump Supporters Surround Biden Campaign Bus in Texas,” November 2, 2020.

Amar, Akhil Reed. “The Troubling Reason the Electoral College Exists.” Time, October 29, 2020.
Committee on Oversight and Reform. “Letter to Alex Azar Regarding HHS Coronavirus Advertising Campaign,” October 28, 2020.
Buchbinder, Susan P., M. Juliana McElrath, Carl Dieffenbach, and Lawrence Corey. “Use of Adenovirus Type-5 Vectored Vaccines: A Cautionary Tale.” The Lancet 396, no. 10260 (October 31, 2020): e68–69.
Sacerdote, Bruce, Ranjan Sehgal, and Molly Cook. “Why Is All COVID-19 News Bad News?” NBER Working Paper Series. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research, November 2020.
Rouw, Anna and 2020. “State Variation in Seasonal Flu Vaccination: Implications for a COVID-19 Vaccine.” KFF (blog), November 2, 2020.
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