Good morning and welcome to On Politics, a daily political analysis of the 2020 elections based on reporting by New York Times journalists.
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Where things stand
On its face, the $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill that passed last month was a victory for liberals, at least by the standards of the Trump era. It was stuffed with money for unemployment relief, support for small businesses and $1,200 checks to most Americans. Still, critics on the left argued that it was an underregulated offering to the corporate elite. They may be even more worried now, after President Trump on Tuesday ousted the head watchdog for oversight of how the administration spends those trillions. What was his reasoning? “He doesn’t think he should be subjected to his political enemies in supposedly apolitical oversight roles,” Cliff Sims, a former White House aide, told our reporters Charlie Savage and Peter Baker. In their article, Charlie and Peter describe Trump’s firing of the official, Glenn Fine, as “the latest step in an abruptly unfolding White House power play against semi-independent inspectors general across the government.”
Is voting an “essential activity”? Or maybe it’s a “governmental function.” Hmm, “minimum basic operation,” perhaps? Those are some of the legitimate reasons to go outside, as named in Wisconsin’s statewide Safer at Home Order. But none of those provisions specifically pertain to voting, at least not according to the text of the order. So Wisconsinites found themselves in a bind yesterday, as their state became the first to hold in-person voting under a stay-at-home order. As you might have guessed, it played out chaotically. Poll workers dropped out by the thousands, and many polling places had to close. In Milwaukee, which normally has 180 voting sites, just five were open. And even as the Supreme Court ruled this week that Wisconsin could not extend its deadline for absentee voting, many who had requested a mail ballot said that it had never arrived.
Wisconsin is a historically Democratic state, but its heavily white population has been trending Republican over the past 10 years. Along the way it has become ground zero for battles over voting rights. Perhaps only North Carolina has had as many pitched battles in recent years over whether to expand or restrict the ability to vote. Yesterday’s elections — during which voting was also taking place for a 10-year term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court — happened only after the conservative majority on the state’s high court ruled against the Democratic governor, who had sought to have in-person voting postponed.
A Kaiser Family Foundation investigation released on Tuesday found vast racial disparities in coronavirus mortality rates, with black and Latino Americans more likely than whites to die of the virus in areas across the country. A New York Times report found similar trends specifically among African-Americans. More on that is below, from our reporter Dionne Searcey.
Photo of the day
Voters lined up on the sidewalk and in their cars outside Milwaukee Marshall High School on Tuesday.
The virus is hitting black Americans especially hard. Why?
A troubling new trend may be emerging as the coronavirus sweeps across America: It is infecting and killing black Americans at disproportionately high rates in some places, according to early data released by several states and big cities. It highlights what public health researchers say are entrenched inequalities in resources, health and access to care.
Much remains unknown about infection rates, and the numbers coming out of the few cities that are reporting data by race right now are preliminary. But the initial indications are alarming enough that policymakers say they must act immediately to stem the potential devastation in black communities.
African-Americans account for disproportionately high rates of either positive tests or deaths in Michigan, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Connecticut and the Las Vegas area. Consider the numbers from Chicago: African-Americans account for more than half of those who have tested positive and a whopping 72 percent of virus-related fatalities, even though they make up a little less than a third of the population.
“Those numbers take your breath away, they really do,” said Lori Lightfoot, the mayor of Chicago. Another striking data point from Chicago: Even before the pandemic hit, officials had calculated that white Chicagoans’ average life expectancy was 8.8 years longer than that of black residents.