NDN Blog

Analysis: Trump’s Plummeting Poll Numbers Clearly Threatening McConnell’s Majority Now

This is the sixth piece in NDN's new weekly polling round-up, published every Thursday. You can find previous weeks' analyses here.

As we’ve been writing these last few months, the President’s bungling of his COVID response has been both a policy and political failure.  The policy failure is manifest – the US still has among the highest infection rates in the world, up there with Russia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Sweden and the UK; 100,000 are dead; we are 35th in per capita testing; the US economy took a far bigger hit than other developed nations; and at least 10 states are now seeing their hospitalization rates increase. 

What continues to remain hard to understand is how the President has chosen to play his policy disaster politically.  Rather than appearing to learn from his mistakes and course correcting, he’s chosen to question and undermine aspects of our response designed to keep us safe and are popular with voters – masks, smart stay at home efforts, even testing and tracing.  Republican Governors who’ve attacked the virus with force have seen their poll numbers shoot up.  Not Trump – his numbers are dropping to what now has to be seen as a very dangerous place for him.  Using 538’s Trump job approval aggregate with likely and registered voters, the President begins the morning at 42.7% approve/54.0% disapprove (-11.3), among the worst showings of his Presidency.  On Election Day 2018 the 538 tracker had Trump at 44/52.4 (-8.4) and he lost that night in the House races by 44.8/53.4 (-8.6).  He is three points lower today, -11.3, and dropping. 

As I was quoted in the New York Times last Friday saying, what has to concern the national GOP the most right now is that Trump’s poor showing may be creating a dangerously low ceiling for Senate incumbents too.   If the 538 job approval tracker was pretty accurate in picking Trump’s final vote share in 2018, and it’s 42.7 today, let’s assume Trump is sitting at 42-44 now (Real Clear Politics has Trump at 42.4).   Here are the head to head numbers for GOP Senators in public polls released since April 15th via 538 (adding MI Senate GOP challenger James too):

Arizona – 38, 41, 42

Colorado – 31, 31, 36

Iowa – 42, 43

Kansas (Kobach) - 42

Maine – 42, 43

Michigan – 35, 36, 37, 37, 40, 43

Montana - 39

North Carolina – 33, 34, 39, 40, 41, 41, 44

South Carolina – 42

Georgia, which has a June 9th primary

Purdue - 45, 45, 46

Collins – 44, 45

Loeffler – 32

Of these 10 GOP held seats (2 in GA), Rs do not have a clear lead in any of them; they only have a few polls showing leads at all; and as we can see there sure does seem to be a very low ceiling for all these Senate Rs this year - the numbers 41, 42, 43 keep showing up again and again.  Incumbents in the low 40s this late in an election cycle seldom win their elections. 

If Biden wins the election, Democrats need to win 4 of what are now 10 competitive GOP Senate seats to flip the Senate.  What we are seeing here, above, are signs of a wave election, consistent across the board depression of one party’s numbers regardless of the experience or talent of the incumbent.  While of course it is too early to know if 2020, like 2018, will be anti-GOP wave, the chances of it are rising significantly now.  While we don’t know if Democrats will win those 4 seats (AZ/CO look good now, IA/ME/NC really promising), the chances of Democrats not just winning 4 but winning 6-7-8 seats is now something that is clearly on the table. 

As we’ve written before, it is impossible to explain what Trump is doing now.  His COVID response has been a governing and political failure.  His refusal to acknowledge it all, and course correct remains ever harder to understand.  Mitch and his colleagues have to be increasingly aware that their captain is steering their ship towards the iceberg.  Let’s see if mutinies begin in the coming days, or if they are all just resigned to living the good life of a retired Senator/lobbyist and have begun talks about the next chapters in their lives.

C'mon Mr. President, Wear A Mask

Notes On 2020 - The President’s defiance on masking is worth us discussing this morning.  The case for masks is a powerful one - they reduce the spread of the virus, are low cost, and are simple.  In poll after poll, support for wearing masks and other prudent physical distancing measures is overwhelming.  In a new Huffington Post poll released last week just on masking, 63% of Americans said the President and other elected officials should wear masks.  Only 7% said no.  So why is the President undermining the use of this powerful and simple tool to help us return to work?

The US government only ever had a few options on what to do about COVID, and what remains extraordinary is that the President to this day has essentially chosen to do none of them.  He could have initiated an early travel ban on China and Europe and, while he eventually adopted partial bans, they came far too late to stop the spread of the virus.  He refused to adopt a national stay at home strategy, leaving it to the states.  He’s refused to set up a national testing and tracing regime, something every other developed country in the world has in place and something that at some point America must do too if we hope to restart domestic and international travel (see this WaPo look at Germany’s tracing regime).  And now he’s undermining the wearing of masks in public.  From a public health standpoint it isn't all that different from recommending folks drink Clorox, or take hydroxychloroquine - it is dangerous quackery. 

It turns out that this lack of really doing anything to fight COVID has left America in rough shape.  We still have among the highest infection rates in the world, per capita, on par with countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil.  We are 35th in the world in per capita testing, and while that number is improving, it is possible the virus has spread here more than any other nation in the world, which means we still lag far behind in testing against the local spread of the virus. The hit our economy and workers have taken is far worse than other developed countries.  Former CDC Chief Scott Gottlieb said this weekend that COVID hospitalization rates are *increasing* in many states, including FL and GA, two of the fastest to re-open.  Fundamentally, the President has failed at job one - taming the virus - at an extraordinary cost to the nation. 

So despite very few states hitting the CDC’s recommended guidelines for re-opening, we are re-opening.  And re-opening means more interactions, more density, and probably for a time, more infections and spread.  Which is why if we are sending people back out into a world where the virus is still active, where our testing and tracing regimes still lag way behind, we should be asking people to wear masks, to protect themselves and others.  It’s simple.  And yet the President is refusing to do it; rather, he is mocking leaders like Joe Biden who are doing the right thing now. 

We are at the point in Trump’s Presidency where we really have to start asking hard questions about whether the President is still capable of understanding what he is doing.  His response to COVID has been among the greatest policy failures in our history.  He isn’t learning from what has gone wrong and making course corrections. He is doing things which seem designed to harm people, spread the virus, and slow our recovery.  And everything he is doing is unpopular.  49 of the 50 governors have higher approval ratings on COVID than the President, with many of the GOP Governors who have been the most aggressive at tackling COVID with the very highest ratings of all.   Only 7% believe he shouldn’t be wearing a mask.  His numbers have dropped in the past few weeks, and he is now well below where he was on Election Day 2018 when he lost that election by 8.6 points.  The Senate also seems to be slipping away from his grasp.  I was quoted in a smart NYTimes Senate analysis on Friday, saying  “The Republican brand seems depressed across the board.  A lot of time senators can insulate themselves from the vagaries of the national electorate, but that doesn’t seem to be happening this time. “

Also on Friday, referring to a new piece I'd written, the Washington Post wrote: “Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg urges his party to see Trump not as someone who possesses fearsome magical political powers, but as someone who’s losing, desperate and panicking.” 

If I were Mitch McConnell and House Leader McCarthy, I would do one thing now for the good of their party and the country - get the President to put on a damn mask, and ask everyone else in the country to join him in the days ahead.  The Republicans just have to stop being cowards, and step in here and help our great country tame this virus in the days ahead.   This war against masks, given all of Trump’s other failures, is dangerous anti-science lunacy, and the cries for it to end should be coming from all quarters now, with the loudest of all coming from the office of Mitch McConnell.  

May 27th Update - New polling from the Navigating Coronavirus project show how little support there is for Trump's hostility to masking - 78% want elected official to wear masks, 74% say they are "pro-mask" and 65% disapprove of the President for not wearing a mask.

Analysis: Biden Can Still Improve Among Young Voters, And There Is Reason To Believe He Will

This is the fifth piece in NDN's weekly Thursday polling round-up. You can find previous weeks' pieces here.

It is our view, as we've written in past weeks, that the 2020 election environment remains remarkably similar to that of 2018, when Democrats won the popular vote by 8.6 percentage points and took back the House. As of this morning, Trump has a -9.7 net approval rating, Dems lead the generic congressional ballot by 7.9 points, and Biden leads Trump head-to-head by 5.1 points - all numbers that point towards a stable advantage for the Democrats as we head into the summer.

In one area, however, Biden is underperforming Democrats' strength in 2018 - among younger voters. In 2018, Democrats won voters under 45 by 25 points (the highest margin among this demographic since at least 1972) and won voters under 30 by 35 points (also the highest margin among this group since at least 1972). While Biden is still clearly winning young voters against Trump, his margins are smaller than this 2018 advantage. In four high quality polls released in May (Monmouth, QuinnipiacYouGov, and CNN), Biden is winning young voters (under 35s for Monmouth, Quinnipiac, and CNN; under 30s for YouGov) by 27, 19, 13, and 8 points. There is clearly much uncertainty in the data about exactly how far young people currently lean towards Biden, but each poll finds their support smaller than the +35 margin for Dems in 2018, and the average of the four polls is just +17. 

The question, then, of whether Biden can win over young voters who supported Dems in 2018 but currently don't support him is a critical one for 2020. In the 2016 presidential election, people under 30 made up 19% of all voters. Assuming that number is relatively steady in 2020, moving Biden's margin among under 30s from his current +17 (average of the four May polls) to the 2018 Dem margin of +35 would net Biden 3.4 points in the popular vote, and even moving under 30s just half of that distance (from +17 to +26) would get him an additional 1.7 points. Considering Biden's current lead of 5-6 points in the head-to-head polling against Trump, these additional votes could put the election away for Biden. 

What is the likelihood that young people do make this move to Biden by November 2020 then? While these types of predictions clearly have great uncertainty, it is our view that there is good reason to believe they will. First, young people strongly dislike Trump, and have done so consistently for several years (i.e. they never supported him in anything close to large numbers). According to Civiqs national polling which has tracked Trump's daily approval since 2017, voters under 35 currently have a net -34 approval rating of the President and the highest that approval rating has ever been since January 2017 is just -31. Even if young voters don't particularly like Biden (or prefer Sanders to Biden), we think it is likely that they will vote for him anyways as a vote against Trump. 

Second, young people voted by a margin of +35 for Democrats in 2018, even though the majority of Democratic candidates (especially in the battleground districts) were ideologically closer to Biden than to Sanders. Of the 59 freshman Democrats elected to the House in 2018, 40 joined the moderate New Democrat Coalition. Again, it seems likely that young people here were strongly motivated to vote by their opposition to Trump, even if they didn't fully agree with their Democratic candidate.

And finally, there is reason to believe that the recent support of Bernie Sanders (who young people strongly supported over Biden in the Democratic primary) for Biden and close cooperation between the two (for example, the recent unveiling of joint policy groups between Biden and Sanders) will cause pro-Sanders young people to become more favorable towards Biden. In 2016, Sanders' voters initially had quite unfavorable views of Clinton when Sanders dropped out but those views became much more favorable by November 2016, and this is even likelier to happen now given that Sanders' voters in 2020 are much more favorable towards Biden than they were towards Clinton in 2016. 

As always, below you can find a detailed aggregate of the most important polling data (in our view) for understanding where the 2020 election currently stands.

Links: 1234567891011121314151617

NDN's Weekly Polling Round-Up

As we enter the 2020 general election campaign in earnest this summer, NDN will be providing our latest thoughts on the structure of the race and how we believe the election will unfold. Each Thursday, we will focus on a new subject area important to the election, and will update our aggregate of the most important polling data (in our view) for understanding where the 2020 election currently stands. 

Biden Can Still Improve Among Young Voters, And There Is Reason To Belief He Will - Chris Taylor, NDN, 5/21/20 - In one area, Biden is underperforming Democrats' strength in 2018 - among younger voters. However, it is our view that there is good reason to believe that these voters will move to a large extent to Biden by November 2020.

The Public Doesn't Trust Or Support Trump's Coronavirus Response - Chris Taylor, NDN, 5/14/20 - It is clear that the public doesn't support Trump's response to this crisis, doesn't trust him to tell the truth about it, and overwhelmingly opposes his new re-opening strategy.

Control Of The Senate Is Now A Toss-Up, With Democrats Perhaps Slightly Favored - Chris Taylor, NDN, 5/7/20 - A major new development in the past month has been a significant tightening of the race for the Senate majority, to the point where today Democrats probably are very slight favorites to win at least 50 seats.

The 2020 Election Is Shaping Up To Be A Lot More Like 2018 Than 2016 - Chris Taylor, NDN, 4/30/20 - NDN's central belief surrounding the 2020 election is that the race currently resembles the Democrats' significant victory in the 2018 midterms far more than it does Trump's win in 2016.

Democrats Begin The 2020 Election Where They Left Off In 2018 - Chris Taylor, NDN, 4/23/20 - It is our belief that the central theme of the 2020 election will be continuity with the 2018 midterms that saw Democrats win the House by a historic 8.6 percentage point margin in the popular vote. As a result, Trump has a lot of work to do if he wants to win a second term.

Looking Ahead to The Fall Elections, Trump Begins to Panic

This piece was originally published on Monday, May 18th and updated on the morning of May 21st with new polling data. 

Donald Trump has long feared Joe Biden.  He hatched a vast conspiracy to extort “dirt” on the Bidens from the Ukrainian government - an illegal plot which got him rightfully impeached and should have ended his Presidency.  Faced with weak poll numbers for himself and incumbent GOP Senators, the President now appears to be panicking - and is not just rolling out ridiculous arguments against the former Vice President, but also has launched a sustained attack against Barack Obama, a political figure far more popular and virtuous than he.  As a longtime political analyst, it doesn’t make any sense to me why he would begin attacking Obama or bring up his illicit relationship with Putin - but little Trump does makes sense to me.  And that’s because despite the bluster he actually isn’t very good at being President or winning over the voters he needs to win. 

This organization has never subscribed to the “Trump has magical powers” school of political analysis.  In 2016, Trump won with just 46% of the vote and only with the help of three extraordinary, hard to replicate events - Russia’s huge intervention on his behalf, Jill Stein’s just good enough candidacy, and the Comey letter which dropped Clinton’s lead from 6 to 2 points in the last days of the election.  When Trump led Republicans into battle in 2017, 2018, and 2019, the Rs had near worst case election results each time.  In 2018, the Democrats won the House by 8.6 points (53.4-44.8), a huge margin; and in 2019, the Dems won the governorships in KY and LA, two deep red Southern states.  As NDN’s Chris Taylor wrote recently, 2020 looks and feels a lot more like 2018 than it does 2016 - which is why Trump has begun to panic.  He’s never actually performed well in an election and he isn’t going to win in 2020 with 45-46% of the vote - his vote share in the 2016 and 2018 elections, and a place where he is struggling to even get to now. 

Perhaps no event captures Trump’s ongoing failures more than his historically inept, reckless response to COVID-19. There is simply no easy way to explain his delay in engaging the virus, his lack of a sustained or understandable response, his repeated undermining of strategies which are working, or his promotion of dangerous, untested remedies.  We are re-opening the country now without most states hitting Trump’s own published criteria for re-opening, and we still don’t have the basic things that we as a nation need - a national testing/tracing regime and strategies for safe domestic travel/business protocols - in place.  We are just re-opening.  Our new infection rate per capita remains among the highest in the world, up there with Russia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and the UK; and while testing has improved, the US is still only around 40th in the world in per capita testing - a very, very low number given that the virus may have spread further and deeper in the US than in any other country in the world. And of course the nation is looking at Great Depression level unemployment rates and banana republic levels of debt. 

As bad as his day-to-day management of COVID has been, his political management of it has also been an extraordinary failure.  Many polls and analyses have captured this failure, but let’s look at new numbers out this morning from the Navigating Coronavirus project:

- Trump’s handling of coronavirus - 41% approve, 55% disapprove

- Has Trump’s management of the coronavirus been a success or failure - 38% success, 51% failure

- Should stores require masks - 84% yes, 16% no

An excellent new Huffington Post poll on masking has similar numbers. Perhaps the most important is the question about the whether Trump himself and othe elected officials should be wearing a mask - 63% yes, just 7% no.  It's hard to put into words how far outside science, reason, common sense and public opinion the President's crusade against masks is.  It's just breathtaking. 

A new Washington Post analysis finds that Trump's approval of his handling of COVID is lower than EVERY GOVERNOR with the exception of his close ally, Governor Kemp of Georgia.  The data is staring him right in the face - thos governors who've aggressively fought the virus have been rewarded in the polls.  Those who haven't, haven't.  To me his siding with the “Liberate!” protesters has been one of the craziest events of his Presidency - it not only makes the spread of the virus more likely, it's operating at the fringe of our politics and has helped drive his numbers down.  The number of people in this hard core Liberate! camp could be as low as 15% of the public, and is certainly no higher than 30%. What exactly are you doing Mr. President? Why haven't you course corrected, for your sake, and for ours as well?

The President is losing the election.  The Senate is imperiled too.  His ridiculous response to COVID has crashed the economy, let the virus run wild, left us without a serious strategy to defeat the virus, and is deeply unpopular.  A second wave may hit us this fall, just as people go to vote.  From where Trump sits now, things are not looking so good.  Hence the “Obamagate” absurdity and new Biden slanders.  It isn't going to help him win, but apparently it is all this spent, failed leader has got at this point. 

In the midst of this pandemic, we all deserve better, much much better.

NDN Events: Rep. Kilmer, Rep. Eshoo, With Dems Things Get Better

We are happy to invite you to the following NDN events, all conducted via Zoom.  Times are all Eastern Daylight Time.  

Friday, June 5th, 2pm - NDN Talks With Rep. Derek Kilmer: Please join us on June 5th for a discussion with Rep. Derek Kilmer, Chair of the House Modernization Commiteee and the New Democrat Coalition. We will be discussing the House's response to the health and economic challenges caused by coronavirus, and the NDC's legislative priorities in the second half of the year. If you'd like to attend this event, you can register here.

Wed, June 10th, 2pm - "With Dems, Things Get Better" Webinar.  Please join us next Wednesday for the latest showing of our "With Dems, Things Get Better" webinar. This project builds on a body of our work over the past few years, and makes the argument that one of the defining political developments of our time is just how different the two American political parties have become. The webinar will be a data rich dive into America in this new age of globalization since 1989, and will look at the performance of the two parties during this time - the 16 years of Obama and Clinton, the 15 plus years of the Bushes and Trump. What the data shows is that America has prospered and made progress when Democrats have been in power, and fallen behind, again and again, when Republicans have held the White House.

You can register for the next showing of our webinar here.

Fri, June 12th, 2pm - NDN Talks with Rep. Anna Eshoo.  We are delighted to bring you an old and dear friend, Anna Eshoo, from Silicon Valley, CA.  Rep. Eshoo will share her thoughts on recent national events, with a particularly emphasis on her work developing our the nation's health response to COVID19, and her new bill which would ban microtargeting on social media platforms. You can register for our talk with Rep. Eshoo here

Analysis: The Public Doesn't Trust Or Support Trump's Coronavirus Response

This is the fourth piece in NDN's weekly Thursday polling round-up. You can find the previous three weeks' pieces herehere, and here.

In recent weeks, we've discussed how the Presidential race continues to solidly lean towards the Democrats while the race for the Senate majority has become far more competitive to the point where it likely slightly favors the Dems. An important rationale for these developments (as well as a key factor for how the campaign will change going forward) is that the public, after a short "rally around the flag" moment, has begun to strongly disapprove of the President's response to the coronavirus crisis.

According to FiveThirtyEight's polling aggregate, the public's approval of Trump's handling of the coronavirus outbreak peaked at net +3.5 (49.7/46.2) on March 25th. Since then, Trump's approval on this metric has steadily declined, and today it stands at net -9.2 (43.3/52.5) - its lowest level since this metric was created in mid-February. Importantly, this decline has taken place while governors' approval ratings continue to surge. In a new Washington Post poll released earlier this week, voters' approval of Trump's handling of coronavirus was -13 (43/56) while voters' approval of their governor's handling of the crisis was +41 (71/27). In particular, governors who Trump has openly attacked over the past month - Cuomo in NY, Whitmer in MI, and Pritzker in Illinois - have very strong approval ratings on their handling of coronavirus. Cuomo has net approval of +63 (81/18), Whitmer +47 (72/25), and Pritzker +41 (71/27).

Not only do voters not support what the President has done to respond to this crisis, they also don't trust the information that he is telling them regarding coronavirus. In a recent CNN poll, voters didn't trust the information that Trump was providing by a 26 point margin (36% trust, 62% didn't trust). By contrast, voters trusted Dr. Fauci by a 47 point margin (67/20), the CDC by a 52 point margin (74/22), and CNN by a 15 point margin (55/40).

Furthermore, the new narrative that Trump has latched onto - that "the cure is worse than the cause" and the country now needs to open up to support the economy ("Liberate!") - remains exceedingly unpopular among voters. According to new Navigator Research polling, when asked which concerned them more, 63% of voters said "ending social distancing too soon and prolonging the pandemic" while only 27% said "social distancing going on for too long and harming the economy". Similarly, 80% of voters said either that the current level of social distancing is right (40%) or that we need more aggressive social distancing (36%), while only 16% said that we need to relax current social distancing restrictions. 

Taken together, it is clear that the public doesn't support Trump's response to this crisis, doesn't trust him to tell the truth about it, and overwhelmingly opposes his new re-opening strategy. As always, below you can find a detailed aggregate of the most important polling data (in our view) for understanding where the 2020 election currently stands. 

Links: 1234567, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

Finally, something very odd has happened in Trump favorability polling over the past month. While older voters have long been a core constituency for the President (he won voters over age 65 by 8 points in 2016 while losing the overall vote by 2, and won them by 2 points in 2016 while losing the overall vote by 9), his support among voters over age 75 fell significantly in April. According to polling from PRRI, the percentage of people who viewed Trump favorably in 2019 was 46% among those 65-74 and 47% among those 75+. Similarly, in March 2020 his favorability was 54% among those 65-74 and 56% among those 75+. In April, however, his favorability collapsed to just 34% among those 75+, while it still held up at 45% among those 65-74. We will of course need more time and much more polling to see if this significant change among elderly voters holds up, but it is something to keep an eye on. Perhaps the high mortality rates that elderly people face from coronavirus has made them particularly opposed to the President's attempts to downplay the virus. If so, the President's chances of winning in 2020 would be all but zero.

Invite: Today, May 15th 2pm ET - Simon Rosenberg & Rob Shapiro Discuss COVID

Please join us this Friday at 2pm for our semi-weekly webinar featuring Simon Rosenberg and Rob Shapiro discussing the latest updates and analysis on COVID-19. The briefing will take place on Zoom and will last for 45 minutes. If you would like to attend, please register at this link. Once you register, you will find a link to the briefing location on Zoom that will go live at 2pm on Friday.

Simon is NDN's President and is a frequent political strategist and commentator in the national media, appearing regularly in the New York Times, Washington Post, and MSNBC. In this past election cycle, he was a senior advisor to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, helping craft the strategy which netted Democrats 40 seats and earned the highest vote share by either party since 1986. 

Rob is a long-time contributor to NDN and was the Undersecretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs in the Clinton Administration. He was a senior economic advisor to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Kerry in their presidential campaigns, and is currently the Chairman of Sonecon LLC, an economic and security policy consultancy. 

As background, Rob published a new piece in The Washington Monthly today discussing how unemployment in April was even worse than the 14.7% number published on Friday, which you can read here. As well, Simon recently published a new piece about how to manage the 75 million young people who will be away from school and summer camps as a result of COVID over the next several months (link here), as well as one that discusses how COVID's spread through the White House within days of its reopening is a lesson for how hard it is going to be to open up the country in the days ahead (link here). 

White House Struggles With COVID Are An Ominous Sign For The Country

White House Struggles With COVID Are An Ominous Sign For The Country - Despite warnings from experts that the virus was still too active in the US to re-open the country, two weeks ago the White House itself returned to work.  The Vice President traveled.  Governors came to visit.  Meetings with outside leaders including the House GOP leadership, which could have been held over video conference, were held inside the White House.  Based on photos from then and subsequent days, the President, his team, and his visitors didn’t wear masks and didn't keep six feet apart. 

Last week, as predicted, COVID came into the White House.  At least two senior staffers and some number of Secret Service agents tested positive for the virus. Dr. Fauci and the heads of the FDA and CDC have all self-quarantined, as have some number of White House staffers.  The Vice President announced that he was self-quarantining last night, but then reversed his decision soon after. White House economic advisor Kevin Hassett, in a TV interview yesterday morning, said that it was "scary to go to work" at the White House but that the urgency of our national challenges required staff there to risk it all, go in, and not work from home.  Re-opening has become a chaotic and dangerous mess, even for the White House.

For every American trying to figure out how to navigate phase II, that the White House is on the verge of shutting down within days of re-opening  is a clear sign of how hard these next few months are going to be.  Perhaps emboldened by their access to rapid daily testing, the President, his staff, and their visitors haven’t followed the protocols - they haven’t worn masks and haven't stayed six feet apart.  We don’t know whether they’ve eaten together and shared meals across from one another, but we have to assume that they have. And the virus came, quickly.  Unlike the rest of us, however, their access to rapid testing may have caught the virus early, and prevented a huge outbreak which could have threatened the President himself.  Most American workers will not be so lucky if the virus hits their workplace, as very few will have access to this level of testing each day.  The virus will come, people will start to get sick, and lock downs will return. It is no wonder, then, that the public isn't happy with the President's COVID response.

As of Saturday, DC has the highest per capita rate of new infections of any state in the country - the virus is spreading faster here than anywhere else.  A Senate hearing tomorrow on the virus will be conducted by a Committee Chairman in quarantine, working from home, and experts will also be quarantined and speaking from home.  It will be another powerful reminder of our struggle to manage this extraordinary time and return to normal - re-opening here, in DC, carries incredible risks at this time for anyone.

At NDN, we hope that the President uses his own struggles with re-opening to help educate the country about the challenges ahead.  The virus isn’t gone or receding - the US still has among the highest new infection rates of any nation on earth, and they aren’t dropping.   Our "lockdowns" were not as aggressive as other nations, and thus didn’t get the virus under control in the way that we all would have wanted.  We don’t have rapid ubiquitous testing in place, like the President does, which is needed to allow workplaces and communities to catch new infections early, isolate the sick, and allow people to keep working.   Re-opening will require an incredible commitment to social distancing and masking (um, Mr. President); and if nothing else the President should admit his errors, and commit now to crashing a national testing/tracing/isolation regime for the country, a regime which has allowed his workplace to stay open.  The President's repeated refusals to adhere to any of the things that experts have recommended to combat the virus - immediate national shelter-in-place, social distancing/masking, testing/tracing/isolation - remain inexplicable and terribly terribly reckless.  He has the opportunity now to course correct, and to help us all learn from this experience.  Re-opening now is fraught with risks, ones that he should be honest about; and risks which, if he is unwilling to admit and address, require Congress to step in and address for him.   

What Are Kids Going To Do This Summer? — A Few Ideas

This essay originally appeared on Medium.

Over the next few weeks school will end for most American students of whatever age, from college to pre-Kindergarten. With camps, recreational centers, community pools and sports teams unlikely to be at full strength this summer or operating at all, summer jobs non-existent, parties and social gatherings scaled way back, what exactly are all these kids going to do this summer?

This is more than just about the opportunity costs of young people not having enriching experiences, socialization, education, jobs and physical activity. If kids are home it is harder for parents to go back to work. If kids have nothing to do, some are assuredly not going to use all this free time wisely. Given how many young people we are talking about — at least 75 million or so — this is no small matter, and it is coming upon us very quickly. We need to start having a big conversation about the summer and our kids, as citizens, parents, educators and elected officials as we all struggle together to adapt to our “new normal.”

We’ve begun that conversation in our own family as our college freshman finished his classes on Wednesday and my two other teenagers finish school in early June. My older children had summer employment lined up — one at a garage, the other at a restaurant. Is it safe for them to do this work? Can they take public transportation? Should they do it for free it the employer can’t pay? And what happens if schools and college don’t reopen this fall? We are facing the prospect of many many months of many millions of kids with very little to do and an educational system facing financial hardship and fatigue.

I don’t know how the US should handle this, but I do have some thoughts what schools of older kids — middle and high school, community and four year college — can be doing this summer. They should stay open, virtually, and be there for their students in some manner. In talking to the schools of my own children, we’ve come up with a few ideas that may be worth trying out, while allowing educators the time off they deserve this summer:

Offer a course called “Navigating COVID19” — Use the academic resources of the school to lead a summer long online course which gives young people a far better understanding of the virus and our collective societal response. The course could include a comprehensive curriculum which teaches them about the biology, economics and geopolitics of COVID. They could study how their own community is responding and discuss the tough decisions we have to make about social distancing, masking, testing and tracing. It can attempt to give them skills to deal with the natural anxiety, loss, struggle which comes with COVID and how and why they need to make good decisions about their own behavior. We should try to make our young people experts in infectious disease — it will be knowledge that they can use their throughout their lives, and could make a real difference in our efforts to defeat this virus in the coming months.

As a parent one thing I’ve learned through this crisis is kids are struggling to understand who to believe, and what is true. They don’t always trust their parents, and let’s be honest, the information coming from the federal government has been a bit wobbly. They need help in navigating COVID — and schools are perhaps the best tool we have now as a society to help them do so.

Questions of whether the course is live or recorded how much homework and reading there is, can be left up to each school. Schools should allow students to keep computers or iPads or other equipment over the summer, and work as hard as they can with local governments to help those students without access to broadband or hardware to participate.

Keep School Clubs Open — Create summer jobs for some students by paying to keep school clubs open — debate, chess, martial arts, e-sports, art etc. Will allow students across the country to stay engaged in hobbies and communities they love, and provide leadership opportunities for tens of thousands of students who may otherwise be idle this summer. Anticipating that parties and gatherings of young people will remain infrequent, we need ways to help break the debilitating isolation so many kids are feeling these days.

Make Sure The School Newspaper Stays Open — Like the club strategy, pay students to keep the school newspaper open and reporting. Will give students an informed student led set of voices to help them stay current as they navigate these challenging times. Encourage experimentation with Zoom or other video platforms for interviews or performances. Keep students talking to one another, learning, engaged. Ask alums or local journalists to “chair” this experimental effort, offering their expertise along the way.

Keep “Advisories” Open — Every school handles small grouping of students in different ways, but for those who have “home room” or “advisories” they should keep meeting weekly over the summer, doing a check in, let folks share their stories of how they are getting by, staying happy. Bigger colleges should break up into smaller “colleges,” and keep video conversations going with 150–200 students weekly. Students need to see one another, stay in touch — this will be a great way.

Like many parents, our family is all of a sudden waking up to the challenge of what exactly will our kids be doing this summer. I think this is a far bigger challenge than many realize, and the country should begin a big conversation about it, spitballing ideas, working to keep our young people informed, safe and happy. Schools have a key role to play, and it is my hope they will step up and let their students know that even though school is ending they will be with them at every step pf the way in this challenging time.

 

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