A standard election cycle would’ve meant interacting with voters at conventions, town halls, and canvassing events. As the pandemic upended traditional forms of campaigning, we’ve spent the last few months engaging with students, teachers, small business owners, religious leaders, and individuals from across the U.S. They update us on how things have changed since we last spoke and what hopes, if any, they have riding on Election Day.
Amy Walter: Back in 2019, we had big plans for covering this election. We knew we wanted to hear from as many people in as many places as we could get to, to help us better understand what they thought was at stake in this election. We went to Michigan last July. This year, we traveled to Iowa in January, in New Hampshire in February. We knocked doors with activists, chatted with voters outside of campaign rallies, met up with political leaders and operatives. We're really excited about upcoming trips to states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and North Carolina, and then it all stopped.
Of course, the news didn't stop, a pandemic and economic recession, record unemployment, and uprising against racism and for police reform. We knew that it was more important than ever to hear from those impacted by these events. We had to do it virtually. It wasn't easy, but the hard-working producers of this show, Amber Hall and Patricia Yacob, found an incredibly diverse group of people who shared their stories with us this year. In our last politics show before Election Day, we checked back in with some of them.
David Bradley: My name is David Bradley and I'm the president of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce in Athens, Georgia. Things have changed dramatically since May. Of course, then we really had no idea what to expect.
Lenore Estrada: My name is Lenore Estrada and I'm the owner of Three Babes Bakeshop in San Francisco and I'm also the founder of SF New Deal. My PvP money ran out. We've been really struggling to try to sell enough to justify the headcount that we have. I actually took out an additional EIDL loan. Also, I had a baby two weeks ago.
Abigail Opiah: I'm Abigail Opiah, co-founder of you Yeluchi by Un-ruly, a mobile hairstyling service for women of color. When we first reopened in June, we saw about $10,000 coming in within a matter of hours. By the end of the week, we had about $20,000 in revenue. It was obviously pent-up demand people itching to get their hair done. Since then, we've leveled down and we're not necessarily doing pre-pandemic numbers, but we are close.
Rachel Fine: My name is Rachel Fine and I own Gigglewaters. It's a restaurant bar in a one-screen classic movie theater in Safety Harbor, Florida. The last time we talked, Florida still had pretty significant restrictions on dining indoors. Since then, Governor DeSantis has moved us into phase three, which is full operations and 100% capacity. Something I should be thrilled about, but I'm not. I don't feel good about flinging open my doors and having a bunch of people crowd around the bar.
Spence Shelton: My name is Spence Shelton and I serve as the lead pastor of Mercy Church here in Charlotte, North Carolina. The last time we talked, we were holding services online. We did that for several months and recently have gathered outdoors for about the past eight weeks or so. We're actually going to begin with one very socially-distanced indoor worship service and then continue our outdoor services starting this upcoming weekend.
Judah Lewis: Hi, my name is Judah Lewis. Things have changed quite significantly, so I moved into Fort Worth. Now, I'm teaching sixth-grade and seventh-grade English language arts and reading. A lot of the students that I teach come from low-income backgrounds, special needs, students that are homeless. I have a lot of students that don't have internet to begin with.
Me teaching virtually and doing two 35-minute lessons, it's not going to be helpful for them. It's just not enough. Now, we've moved to a place where a lot of the students still are back in person. It's hybrid and we have students that are still online and they're not coming back soon. There's a heightened anxiety because of the fear of catching coronavirus.
Amy: Of course, the uprisings this year in the wake of the killing of George Floyd were on some minds as well.
Dr. Karlos K. Hill: I'm Dr. Karlos K. Hill. I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of Americans who are beginning to show solidarity with the movement for Black Lives Matter.
RJ Young: I'm RJ Young. I'm from Tulsa. I feel that I am constantly being gaslighted as my fears are no longer taken seriously at all, that in the very red state of Oklahoma, I'm being told that I am making everything about race or I am making everything about George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, that I am the person who is sensitive to COVID-19 that I'm preventing it from me living my life.
Amy: They share their concerns about their economic challenges.
David: If another round of emergency relief doesn't come in, I'm not hopeful that I would expect that we might lose 20%, 25% of our business downtown.
Lenore: I just think that the government has to do more to step in if they want to preserve our small businesses and our jobs.
Abigail: With this election, I think that no matter who wins, there's still going to be an effect on the economy. There's still going to be civil unrest that's happening. I'm not sure how long it's going to take for the recession to be turned around. Yes, although I am hoping that we get a new person in the White House this year, it's not lost on me that there's still going to be a lot to contend with.
Amy: On the policy front, some people were less than optimistic. Dr. Hill: Even with this greater awareness and this seeming solidarity, it is by no means a given that legislation will occur, new policies will be developed, more accountability will occur as a result of those things. That's the sobering reality.
RJ: I feel that the results of the election have the possibility of moving the needle on the conversation and race, but only further into what I think is the wrong direction. Either folks are going to vote for Donald Trump and we'll get four more years of what we had and possibly worse or Joe Biden wins and a very loud and what we know to be at least enthusiastic part of the country is going to feel as if we threatened them further. Amy: Some told us about the hopes they have writing on this election.
Judah: I am very, very optimistic about the future of the country because I am very optimistic in people.
Rachel: Well, I would just say that I'm cautiously optimistic.
Dr. Hill: I've never seen as big a push getting out to vote as in these last three to six months.
Spence: Well, if North Carolina is a purple state, I will tell you, Mercy Church is a purple church.
Rachel: Regarding the presidential election, I just want it over. I just want it over. Florida is such a passionately purple state and we are also divided right now. Everyone's feet are really just frozen in the mud waiting to see what direction life is going to go in. Honestly, if I could just fast forward and figure out what life looks like under the next presidency, I'd be so grateful because this is a very tough time.
Lenore: I'm definitely hoping for a Biden win as a human being and as a business owner really and as a mom. Jeez, I was listening today on NPR, just talks about the kids separated from their parents at the border and kids in cages. As a parent, it's just heartbreaking to get choked up. You'd be looking for your child forever.
Amy: For RJ Young, hope comes from within.
RJ: My girlfriend is white. She has two little girls who are also white. They're the only two people on the face of the earth that know me as RJ first and not as a Black man first. Knowing that those two girls will grow up to be two women who have a relationship with a Black man that is deeper than what color are you and where do you come from in the city gives me some measure of hope.
Amy: America has a complicated and messy history, one that we still are grappling to fully appreciate, but it's also a resilient and optimistic place that continues to change and evolve.
David: I hope next Wednesday that we breathe a sigh of relief and we really start holding hands to work together again to find a better tomorrow.
Amy: I want to thank all of our guests who shared their lives with us this year.