2020
October
28
Wednesday

Monitor Daily Podcast

October 28, 2020
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TODAY’S INTRO

Lessons from the Rays on the Dodgers’ 2020 World Series victory

David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

The Los Angeles Dodgers deserve kudos for winning their first World Series in 32 years. But for a moment, let’s look at what the underdog Tampa Bay Rays taught us – and the Dodgers.

The Rays had the third lowest budget in baseball. The Dodgers had the second highest payroll. In fact, two players on the Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw and Mookie Betts, made more money this year than the entire Rays’ team.

How did the Rays even get to the World Series? Sabermetrics (aka Moneyball). It’s the school of analysis made famous by the 2002 Oakland Athletics. It uses on-field statistics to find undervalued players. Another part of this winning formula is developing young (inexpensive) players. 

But there’s more. The Rays are innovators in a sport often yoked by tradition. For example, the Rays pioneered “bullpen days.” That’s using a parade of relievers from the start of the game – instead of relying on a starting pitcher for five to six innings. It worked so well the Dodgers used the formula Tuesday night. 

“We don’t let ourselves be limited by [our financial challenges],” then Rays vice president Chaim Bloom said last year. “We use them to inspire us, to spur us to work harder and be more creative.”

Here’s the kicker: The Dodgers and the Rays are basically using the same playbook. The architect of the Rays Moneyball approach, Andrew Friedman, now works for the Dodgers. So, one lesson might be that success – for both teams – emerged from a blend of creativity and science.

A deeper look

Progressive agenda or Trump 2.0? Conflicted conservatives weigh risks.

Our reporter speaks to morally conflicted conservatives about what’s fueling the current iteration of the Never Trump divide within the Republican Party.  

David

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Lisa Rosendale doesn’t want to vote for Donald Trump, but has felt she has little choice.

Despite her distaste for the president’s divisiveness, she worries that behind former Vice President Joe Biden’s avuncular smile stands a vanguard of ambitious progressives whom he may be unwilling or unable to stop.

“Really the only option I have at the ballot box is to vote for Trump,” says Ms. Rosendale, a moderate conservative in Dallas.

From the cockpits of Navy fighter jets to the fields of Kansas, conservative voters with concerns about the president are wrestling with how to vote in what many see as the most consequential election in decades. A Never Trump 2.0 movement, fueled by dozens of former GOP officials and six-figure Democratic donations, has grabbed the headlines, but at least as numerous are conflicted conservatives like Ms. Rosendale who are still leaning toward supporting the president. How they vote could decide the election.

“These are some of the people who voted for Donald Trump [in 2016] as the lesser of two evils,” says Scott Rasmussen, whose recent poll indicates that Mr. Biden’s 8-point national lead could be almost entirely explained by conservative voters who are backing him.

“They’re conflicted again, but there’s enough of them saying they’re going to vote for Biden that at the moment it’s pushing Biden ahead.”

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1. Progressive agenda or Trump 2.0? Conflicted conservatives weigh risks.

Lisa Rosendale doesn’t want to vote for Donald Trump, but feels she has little choice. 

She doesn’t approve of what she describes as the president’s divisive approach to governing. But she worries that behind former Vice President Joe Biden’s avuncular smile stands a vanguard of ambitious progressives whom he may be unwilling or unable to stop in the twilight of his career.

“The cancel culture, identity politics, and cultural power of the far left are, to me, the greatest threats to our country and our classical liberal norms,” says Ms. Rosendale, a federal contractor who describes herself as a moderate conservative, from Dallas. “I’m not confident Biden can hold them back.”

Other conflicted conservatives have come to a different conclusion: It’s time to put country over party.

“It brings me no joy to have to support a Democratic candidate for president. But what it comes down to for me is it’s a character election,” says Miles Taylor, who served as chief of staff to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and came out today as the anonymous author of a 2018 New York Times op-ed describing a “resistance” movement of administration officials working to thwart Mr. Trump from within. “I believe that the corrosive impact of a bad man in the Oval Office on our democratic institutions is far more damaging than the corrosive impact of someone whose policies I disagree with serving as president.”

Mr. Taylor is at the forefront of a highly unusual offensive from within the Republican Party to defeat their own candidate – a Never Trump 2.0 movement, fueled in part by Democratic donations. Dozens of former officials from the Reagan, Bush, and Trump administrations have thrown their weight behind Mr. Biden, arguing that the longtime senator and former vice president has a sounder character and would better safeguard America’s democracy and national security. Any leftward shift in policy, they say, could be moderated by Congress or later reversed. 

Less prominent – but at least as numerous – are reluctant Trump voters like Ms. Rosendale who, echoing James Madison, put their trust not in men but in a model of government designed to prevent tyranny of the majority. They see the president – despite his many flaws and reckless swerving across the Twittersphere – as a necessary bulwark against a progressive takeover.  

Mr. Trump has the highest approval rating among Republicans of any president since Dwight Eisenhower, with 87% support. Many Republican voters say they appreciate how he has confronted China, taken a stand for border security, reduced government regulation, bolstered the economy before COVID-19 hit, made headway toward Middle East peace, and – with the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett this week – added three conservative jurists to the Supreme Court.

But from the cockpits of Navy fighter jets to the fields of Kansas, a not-insignificant number of conflicted conservatives are still wrestling with how to vote in what many see as the most consequential election in decades. They are not sure the president’s accomplishments outweigh his propensity to dismiss unfavorable media coverage and inconvenient facts as “fake news,” mock or even fire highly competent officials while promoting others with little relevant experience, and advance policy ideas such as banning travel from Muslim nations and separating immigrant children from their families at the border. According to a poll published Oct. 9 by the Pew Research Center, 93% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters supported Mr. Biden and 3% were planning to vote for Mr. Trump. But just 85% of Republican and Republican-leaning independents were planning to vote for Mr. Trump, with 9% backing Mr. Biden. 

Nicole Hester/Mlive.com/Ann Arbor News/AP
Supporters of President Donald Trump watch a video during a campaign event on Oct. 27, 2020, in Lansing, Michigan.

“These are some of the people who voted for Donald Trump [in 2016] as the lesser of two evils,” says Scott Rasmussen, whose former firm, Rasmussen Reports, is one of the president’s favorite polling outlets. Now independent, he says a recent poll of his indicates that Mr. Biden’s 8-point national lead could be almost entirely explained by conservative voters who have moved away from the president. “They’re conflicted again, but there’s enough of them saying they’re going to vote for Biden that at the moment it’s pushing Biden ahead.”

No PAC for Reluctant Trump Voters

Those leaning in Mr. Biden’s direction have found ample support for ditching their traditional conservative policy values – including in military circles, where Democratic voters have tended to stay mum in the past. Even some conservatives who strongly oppose abortion are openly backing Mr. Biden – both Evangelicals and Roman Catholics, the latter citing Pope Francis’ criticism of the “harmful ideological error” of promoting one particular ethical issue above all others and his exhortation that poor, destitute, abandoned, and underprivileged people are “equally sacred” as the lives of the unborn. 

These Biden supporters have been flooding op-ed pages and flocking to groups like Republican Voters Against Trump, Republicans for the Rule of Law, Former Republican National Security Officials for Biden, and The Lincoln Project. The latter is a political action committee with 2.6 million Twitter followers that has received hefty Democratic donations, including $700,000 from Majority Forward. 

There is no PAC, however, for Reluctant Trump Voters. A Hold Your Nose Republican Facebook page has 12 followers and hasn’t been updated since 2008. Those leaning toward Mr. Trump are often reticent to discuss their deliberations with family and friends, let alone congregate on social media. One such voter notes ruefully that the days when driving around “the People’s Republic” of Cambridge, Massachusetts, with a Reagan sticker could get your windshield wipers torn off seem like a fond memory compared with today. 

Many conflicted conservatives who are considering casting ballots for Mr. Trump requested anonymity, voicing concern about cancel culture and its repercussions. One, a French American dual citizen who came back to the U.S. six years ago as a young professional, says he declined to vote in 2016 “out of respect for the people of this country,” thinking he should wait until he understood more about American politics. 

But now that the opportunity has arrived, he doesn’t know what to do with it. He considers himself a Republican, but describes Mr. Trump as “very vulgar.” In recent years, he has felt unfairly labeled as racist or xenophobic for his views on issues like immigration, saying his assessment is based on the problems with France’s more liberal approach. And as the election approaches, he feels the weight of what his Democratic friends and family members would think. “You carry that guilt of people blaming you for making the wrong choice,” he says.

John Raoux/AP
Supporters listen as former President Barack Obama speaks at a rally as he campaigns for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Oct. 27, 2020, in Orlando, Florida.

Between Trump and the “tyranny of the woke left”

Somewhat counterintuitively, for Mr. Taylor, the former DHS official, it was Mr. Trump’s talk of banning Muslims from entering the United States that pushed him to get more involved in his campaign, and eventually his administration, in what he describes as a damage-control mission. He left in 2019, and calls the president “quite literally one of the worst human beings that I’ve ever met in my entire life.”

While he understands why some Republican voters might decide to hold their nose on issues of character in pursuit of conservative policies, he says that’s misguided.

“Donald Trump is not a Republican, was never a Republican, and only hijacked the Republican brand to get himself into office,” he says, echoing others who cite in particular Mr. Trump’s lack of fiscal conservatism, his isolationist tendencies, and his inconsistent approach to trade deals. “He doesn’t care about Republican policies and principles. He only cares about his own self-interest.”

To Mr. Taylor, the danger of another four years of Mr. Trump, who he sees as bent on destroying America’s system of government, is far greater than the threat of any liberal policies that may be implemented under Mr. Biden. 

“I’m not worried about Biden advancing incredibly progressive positions. It’s not as if he’s going to wake up tomorrow and become some super-progressive thinker,” agrees Travis Sawyer, a financial adviser in Abilene, Kansas, who stepped down as chair of his local Republican Party this summer because he couldn’t support Mr. Trump. With the president not doing much to uphold Mr. Sawyer’s key policy priority of fiscal conservatism, the Kansas conservative ultimately opted to vote for Mr. Biden, but also the GOP Senate candidate. “In my mind, the Senate is what keeps those types of initiatives from making it to his desk.” 

Yet some conservatives worry that Democrats could be poised to retake not only the White House but also the Senate, and increase their majority in the House. 

In a Sept. 14 Washington Post op-ed, Danielle Pletka, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a 2016 Never-Trumper, laid out the damage that could be done under unified Democratic control – including abolishing the filibuster in the Senate, packing the Supreme Court with liberal judges, nationalizing health care, and dismantling the borders. 

“Trump, for all his flaws, could be all that stands between our imperfect democracy and the tyranny of the woke left,” she wrote.

In an interview, Ms. Pletka says that despite the blowback she received for her piece, many people told her privately that they felt the same way. “This persistent belief that if you ... vote for Donald Trump you are a mindless cretin is so offensive,” she says, adding that she isn’t blind to the dangers he represents. “It’s ridiculous.”

Regrouping before the real showdown in 2024

Looking ahead, some Republicans actually see a silver lining in losing the White House this year. 

“I think the real battle for progressives will be 2024,” says Anne Emily Caplin, a New Hampshire Republican who worked on Capitol Hill for former Sen. Warren Rudman and did Trump opposition research for 2016 GOP candidate Sen. Marco Rubio. “With Trump out of the picture, Republicans do have the chance to heal from the insanity.”

In 2016, she couldn’t bring herself to vote for anyone running, so she wrote in Abigail Adams. But this year she’s all in for Mr. Biden. Like many others interviewed, she holds out hope for a new generation of Republican leaders. People like Ben Sasse, the junior Nebraska senator known for his passionate disquisitions on the Constitution – or Nikki Haley, the daughter of immigrant parents who became governor of South Carolina and Mr. Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations.

“We are far more worthy as a people than to have a charlatan as a president,” says Betty Tamposi, a former New Hampshire state legislator and chair of the state Ways and Means Committee, who also served as assistant secretary of state for consular affairs in President George H.W. Bush’s administration. “This false sense of American patriotism is not at all authentic.”

Some Trump critics see in the president’s style of campaigning and governing echoes of Nazi Germany. But another Trump supporter who requested anonymity, a retired Kansas high school teacher who emigrated from Germany, finds such comparisons deeply upsetting. “[Trump] is certainly pompous and braggadocious. But he is nothing compared to Hitler,” she says. “Comparing Hitler to Trump or any other person speaks of intellectual laziness. It actually diminishes the evil Hitler perpetrated.”

Regardless of which candidate these conflicted conservatives ultimately settle on, many agree on one thing: This election is even more important than 2016. A Cuban American millennial in Miami who didn’t vote for Mr. Trump in 2016 says he decided to this year because the stakes seem higher. “We want to make our vote count as much as possible.”

That’s where Ms. Rosendale’s dilemma gets even more complicated. Her husband, also a self-described moderate conservative, has been planning on voting for Mr. Biden, which would cancel out her vote for Mr. Trump. So she’s been trying to get him to agree to both vote third-party, since the net result would be the same. “Basically I want to keep my hands clean. ... I feel a lot of people would judge me, and I would judge me.”

Today her husband said OK. 

Rethinking the News

A space for constructive conversations

Tulsa reckons with its racist past. What can America learn? (audio)

As America struggles with racism, our reporters visited Tulsa, Oklahoma, to find out what we can learn about the process of healing, of coming to terms with a massacre of Black residents a century ago. First of the three-part podcast series.

David
Samantha Laine Perfas/The Christian Science Monitor
Mechelle Brown gives a tour of the Greenwood Cultural Center, where she serves as program director, on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, in Tulsa, Okla. The center's main exhibit commemorates the race massacre, which took place on May 31 and June 1, 1921, when a white mob attacked the Black community of Greenwood in north Tulsa.

On May 31 and June 1, 1921, a white mob – enraged by a rumor that a young Black man had assaulted a white woman – attacked the Black community of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They set fire to the district, looted businesses, killed Black residents, and displaced thousands. 

It was one of the most devastating incidents of racist violence in U.S. history. And it stayed mostly unmentioned for decades.  

Today, nearly 100 years after what is now known as the Tulsa race massacre, the city is finally reckoning with its past. Tulsa is commemorating the centennial by opening a new museum dedicated to the Greenwood community, including the massacre in public school curriculum, and fast-tracking an investigation into the long-missing grave sites of those killed in the massacre. Few, if any, other U.S. cities have tried to come to terms with their racist histories.

But the process is raising difficult questions for Tulsa. Some residents say such a horrific event needs to be brought forward and understood. Others, however, ask why the memory needs to be relived at all. Why commemorate it? Can’t the city just move on?

In this episode of “Rethinking the News,” we look at how Tulsa’s struggle echoes America’s, as the country wrestles with race and racism ahead of a deeply divisive election. – Jessica Mendoza and Samantha Laine Perfas

“Rethinking the News” is a podcast that aims to make room for constructive conversations across a range of perspectives, and bring Monitor journalism straight to your ears. To learn more about the podcast and find new episodes, please visit our page

This story was designed to be heard. We strongly encourage you to experience it with your ears, but we understand that is not an option for everybody. For those who are unable to listen, we have provided a transcript of the story here.

Black Wall Street: ‘Their Blood Still Speaks’

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Year of extremes in politics? Not in Michigan Senate race.

We’re looking at a close Senate race in Michigan where both candidates are appealing to moderate voters, downplaying party affiliation, and calling for bipartisanship. 

David
Paul Sancya/AP
Republican U.S. Senate candidate John James drops his ballot with his family at City Hall in Farmington Hills, Michigan, Oct. 26, 2020. Mr. James, who is challenging Democratic incumbent Sen. Gary Peters, is a West Point graduate, Army veteran, and Detroit-area businessman.

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Michigan, a battleground state that Donald Trump won narrowly in 2016, is a rare bright spot for Republicans amid a slew of difficult Senate races nationwide. As they look at possible losses of seats elsewhere, here Republicans have at least an outside shot at picking off an incumbent Democrat. 

Gary Peters is a Harley-riding first-term senator with a professorial demeanor and reputation for moderation. Republican John James is a West Point graduate, Army veteran, and Detroit-area businessman. Polls show a tight enough race that money has poured in for both sides.

In a sense, the campaign harks back to Michigan’s pre-Trump days. These candidates point toward the survival of strategies aimed at appealing to moderates. They are downplaying party affiliation and calling for bipartisanship. Some top issues in the campaign are schools, health care, and housing. 

“I see [Mr. James] as more of a classical conservative, the way we think of conservatism before the Trump years,” says Peter Wielhouwer, a political expert at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. “Neither is extreme. Neither of them reflects the extremes of today’s national political parties.”

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3. Year of extremes in politics? Not in Michigan Senate race.

Here, at least, a small ray of hope glimmers for Republicans.

With national polls showing President Donald Trump imperiled in his quest for a second term, attention – and money – has shifted to the U.S. Senate, where Republicans are fighting to hold on to their slender 53-47 edge over Democrats and independents.

It doesn’t look good for them. Of the 35 Senate seats up for election this year, the Cook Political Report has rated nine held by Republicans as either toss-ups or leaning Democratic. In contrast, only two seats held by Democrats are thought to be in jeopardy – one a nearly certain loss Alabama. 

The other is here in Michigan, a battleground state that Mr. Trump won narrowly in 2016. Voters are deciding between first-term Sen. Gary Peters, a Harley-riding Democrat with a professorial demeanor and reputation for moderation, and Republican John James, a West Point graduate, Army veteran, and Detroit-area businessman who is making his second run for the Senate. Money is pouring in on both sides, much of it from outside the state. The candidates have so far raised $56 million, making the race one of the most expensive in the country. 

Polls suggest a close contest. Indeed, Mr. James seems to be more popular than Mr. Trump, while the incumbent Democrat, Mr. Peters, lags Joe Biden. The most recent polls show Mr. Biden with an 8.6-point lead over Mr. Trump in Michigan while Mr. Peters’ lead averages just 6.7 points, according to tracking by the RealClearPolitics website. Some observers consider the race a toss-up, although a newly released Detroit News-WDIV poll shows Mr. Peters’ lead expanding.

There’s a lot at stake for both sides. If Republicans can keep their hold on the Senate, they could sharply constrain a potential Biden administration both in its legislative goals and judicial appointments. It was a Republican Senate, after all, that blocked former President Barack Obama from filling the Supreme Court seat of Antonin Scalia as well as other open seats on federal courts across the country.  

“The Democrats are going to do everything they can to keep this seat,” says David Dulio, a political scientist at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. “The party has to defend this seat they have before going after the seats they don’t. I think this one is at the top of their lists.”

Candidates who appeal to moderates

In a sense, the campaign harks back to Michigan’s pre-Trump days. While ads filling the airwaves sizzle with fierce attacks on both sides, these Senate candidates point toward the survival of strategies aimed at appealing to moderates. They are downplaying party affiliation and calling for bipartisanship. Mr. James, who said in 2018 that he supported Mr. Trump “2,000%,” has tried this time to keep some distance from the president. He spoke at a recent Trump rally in Michigan but left before Mr. Trump arrived. 

Carolyn Kaster/AP
Sen. Gary Peters speaks during an event for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden at Michigan State Fairgrounds in Novi on Oct. 16, 2020. Some analysts call Mr. Peters a quietly effective senator, yet his low profile may have opened the door to a tough reelection campaign.

 “I see him as more of a classical conservative, the way we think of conservatism before the Trump years,” says Peter Wielhouwer, director of the Institute of Government and Politics at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. “Peters is a typical Democrat but has a reputation for being more moderate. Neither is extreme. Neither of them reflects the extremes of today’s national political parties.”

Issues that loom large in the campaign include federal support for public schools, care and housing for veterans (both candidates are veterans), trade policy toward China, and especially health care and the pandemic. Mr. James has benefited from the lack of any record to attack. He’s never held public office and has mostly made general statements about public policy.  

Mr. Peters has a record. He’s been in the Senate six years. This has given Mr. James and his supporters plenty of opportunity for attack. But fact-checkers at the Detroit Free Press say Mr. Peters has worked quietly and effectively in the Senate and that many of the attacks, such as that Mr. Peters downplayed the coronavirus, are false or misleading. That specific jab by Mr. James shows how deeply the pandemic has intruded into races across the country, forcing a Trump supporter like himself to take it far more seriously than the president has.

“He didn’t get out much”

One obstacle facing both candidates is simply a lack of attention, despite a season of hypercharged national politics. This is particularly a problem for Mr. Peters, who is not well known among his constituents, even after six years in office. Each year he mounts his Harley-Davidson and takes a weeklong tour of the state – travels amply highlighted in his ads. But if he ever stopped in Benton Harbor, a poor and largely Black community in the state’s far southwest corner, many residents don’t recall it.

“He didn’t get out much,” says Rodney Alexander, a Democratic voter. Mr. Alexander says he would nonetheless vote for Mr. Peters because he wants Democrats to take control of the Senate. “You can’t get anything passed without control of the Senate,” he says.

Other voters in the neighborhood said they would vote for Mr. Biden but were unsure about the Senate race.

“I haven’t thought much about that,” says Fred Rivers, a retired worker at a local juvenile center. He guessed he would leave the rest of his ballot blank.

Mr. James, in contrast, enjoys some familiarity with voters. Just two years ago he ran for the Senate against Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow. Although he lost, he did better than other Republicans running that year.

Battling for on-the-fence voters

“Peters has a natural incumbency advantage, but the nature of Michigan politics means he’s getting a stronger than usual run for his money,” says Mr. Wielhouwer, who is located 50 miles east of Benton Harbor. “James did pretty well two years ago. He’s leveraged that into strong name recognition and a squeaky-clean image that makes him attractive in today’s political environment.”

Paul Sancya/AP
Vice President Mike Pence and Republican U.S. Senate candidate John James pray before lunch at The Engine House in Mount Clemens, Michigan, on June 18, 2020. Mr. James has distanced himself somewhat from President Donald Trump in the 2020 campaign.

Mr. James may also benefit from “Never Trumpers” who will vote for Mr. Biden but stick with Republicans for state and local races.  

One of them is Mark Mawhinney, a real estate agent in St. Joseph, a small city just across the St. Joseph River from Benton Harbor. He ordered a “Republicans for Biden” sign from a local sign-maker and stuck it in the grass in front of his house, on St. Joseph’s busy main street. And yet Mr. Mawhinney says he voted for Mr. James and other Republicans on the ballot.

“I believe in the Republican values that existed 20 years ago,” he says. “Ronald Reagan was a favorite of mine.” 

One question is whether Mr. James, who is African American, can attract the votes of other African Americans who might otherwise have voted Democratic. Republicans hope so. “I think we’re getting some crossover with black voters,” says Scott McGraw, chairman of the Republican Party in Kalamazoo County, just east of Benton Harbor. “Which he’s trying to tap into.”

Here in Benton Harbor, a number of Black voters dismiss that idea as wishful thinking.

“In the Black community, we just don’t vote for you because you’re African American,” says Trenton Bowens, a civil rights activist in Benton Harbor. “A lot of people I talk to, they look at him as a car salesman. They talk a good game, but they’re not to be trusted.”

Samuel Williams, an electrician, paused as he unloaded his truck in a leafy residential neighborhood to say that color didn’t matter to him. He had already voted, and he had voted for all Democrats. Mr. James didn’t interest him. “I don’t care if he’s white, green, or blue,” he says. 

One group that could boost Mr. James’ chances are farmers. Two years ago, the Michigan Farm Bureau endorsed his opponent, Ms. Stabenow, the incumbent Democrat, because she held a powerful position as ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. This time around, the Farm Bureau has endorsed Mr. James.

“John James is a businessman,” says Carl Bednarski, a corn, bean, and sugar beet farmer in northeastern Michigan and president of the Farm Bureau. “He’s a good communicator. He understands agriculture.”

Prosperity or civil liberties? Tanzanian opposition demands both.

Real leadership and real democracies don’t offer false choices, such as free speech or economic prosperity, and government integrity or civil liberties. And, our reporter finds, Tanzanian voters know it.

David

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John Magufuli, known as “the bulldozer,” will win today’s presidential elections in Tanzania. Of that there is very little doubt.

But he will not win them fair and square. His economic policy over the past five years may have raised living standards, but his government has also jailed political critics, shut down newspapers, and prohibited opposition candidates from standing in the election.

That approach, though, seems to be backfiring, and galvanizing the opposition Chadema party. Its leader, Tundu Lissu, has been drawing record crowds of supporters even though they risk being tear-gassed by the police, and opponents of the president, whose party has ruled Tanzania since independence in 1961, are growing bolder.

“In this campaign, Tanzanians have been saying that they deserve certain rights and that they won’t be bullied out of them so easily,” says one local political analyst. “We are looking at how far we are able to take this democratic notion.”

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4. Prosperity or civil liberties? Tanzanian opposition demands both.

On the first full day he was president of Tanzania, in November 2015, John Magufuli walked unannounced into the country’s Ministry of Finance in Dar es Salaam and began asking questions.

“Who sits there?” he asked, according to a local news report, pointing to one of many empty desks in the ministry. “And who sits there, and there – and where are they now?”

The message was clear. If you worked for Tanzania’s government, and you didn’t work hard, you were being put on notice. Over the next three years, Mr. Magufuli’s administration slashed 16,000 “ghost workers” from the government’s payroll, canceled foreign trips for public servants, and diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars from an Independence Day celebration to cholera prevention efforts.

And his government’s austerity, he often repeated, was making Tanzania richer. In 2019, the World Bank proclaimed the country “lower middle income” for the first time in its history.

But Dr. Magufuli’s well-earned reputation as “the bulldozer” extended beyond a no-nonsense approach to corruption and bureaucratic bloat. He also began shutting down media outlets and jailing critics. He cracked down on Tanzanians he deemed immoral, outlawing female contraceptives, banning pregnant girls from school and passing laws curtailing the rights of LGBTQ people.

AP
Residents line up to cast their vote Wednesday in Dodoma, Tanzania, in a presidential election that the opposition warns is already deeply compromised by manipulation and deadly violence.

Dr. Magufuli appears poised to sweep to victory again today in presidential elections fraught with allegations of suppression and intimidation of his opponents. 

But if the results of the poll are more or less a foregone conclusion, observers say the election still marks an important moment for the country. In particular, the bold support that many Tanzanians have shown for the opposition, despite the risks, suggests that Dr. Magufuli’s bulldozing blend of economic austerity and political repression has begun to backfire, pushing more and more Tanzanians away from a party that has ruled the country since its independence in 1961.

“Tanzanians have been asked to choose between economic growth and civil liberties, and many of them rightly see that as an unfair choice,” says Ringisai Chikohomero, a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa, who studies Tanzanian politics. “So you have many ... who celebrate being lifted out of poverty, but the consequence of that is that they’ve also begun to demand more when it comes to political freedoms.”

Those demands, during this election campaign, have been loud, with Tanzanians turning out by the thousands for opposition rallies. “We’re looking at how far are we able to take this democratic notion. We’re asking what we want for our country, what kind of government, what kind of leadership,” says Elsie Eyakuze, a political analyst and columnist in Dar es Salaam.

Those questions have generally been met with severe repression. Over the past five years, Dr. Magufuli’s government has shut down publications and arrested journalists critical of its policies. When the International Monetary Fund questioned data pointing to booming economic growth last year, Mr. Magufuli simply blocked the release of its report.

Then, during the coronavirus pandemic, the government suspended and fined publications and journalists who challenged its official line – that it had completely contained the virus by May. (In fact, it had simply stopped recording new cases). Ahead of the election, Dr. Magufuli banned most election observers and assigned foreign journalists government minders to keep an eye on them. Earlier this week, police killed three people at an anti-government demonstration on the island of Zanzibar.

Meanwhile, Dr. Magufuli’s administration has tightened its grip on the country’s courts, limiting citizens’ ability to sue over unconstitutional laws, and making it possible to jail and deny bail to people charged with certain offenses – a tactic that is frequently used to wear down government critics.

AP
Opposition leader Tundu Lissu, left, hands in his electoral nomination form. Tanzanians go to the polls on Wednesday, with the future of one of Africa's most populous countries and fastest-growing economies at stake.

“You don’t win an election on the day of the vote. You win the day you start to make it impossible for the opposition to compete on equal footing,” says Fatma Karume, the former head of the Tanganyika Law Society, the bar association for mainland Tanzania. She herself has tasted the government’s wrath: she was permanently disbarred for bringing an “unprofessional and disrespectful” case against the country’s attorney general.

At the same time, support for the opposition cannot be measured only by its percentage of the final vote tally, she says. Throughout the election season, Tanzanians have shown outspoken support for Dr. Magufuli’s main challenger, Tundu Lissu, of the Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) party, who was the target of an assassination attempt by unknown attackers in 2017 and campaigned this year with a bullet still lodged near his spine.

Mr. Lissu drew huge crowds to his campaign rallies despite government attempts to suppress them by tear-gassing supporters, briefly suspending his campaign in early October for using “seditious language,” and arresting seven members of the opposition youth wing for “ridiculing the national anthem and flag” when they sang Tanzania’s national anthem while lifting their party flag.

It is nearly impossible to gauge the level of support for Chadema and Mr. Lissu, given the lack of credible and independent polling in Tanzania. However, the party won 42% of the vote in the last election, whose fairness was also disputed, and many point to the government’s suppression of opposition rallies and refusal to let many opposition parliamentary and local council candidates stand in today's elections as evidence that it is concerned about their rising power.

“In this campaign, Tanzanians have been saying that they deserve certain rights, and that they won’t be bullied out of them so easily,” says Ms. Eyakuze, the political analyst. “So if they want to attend a rally, they’re not willing to give up their right to do that just because the government is making it difficult.”

Ms. Karume says she is hopeful those gestures of support for the opposition won’t be lost on Dr. Magufuli if he is elected to a second term.

“I’m hoping he will recognize that people are demanding he change course,” she says. “Not selfishly, but for the sake of the country’s future.”

Difference-maker

Drivers of change

An electrician’s good deed launches a movement of helpers

The next story will revive your faith in humanity. It’s about a neighbor seeing a need, and stepping up. It’s a portrait of how generosity gathers momentum and speeds progress.  

David
Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Electrician John Kinney started out fixing a wiring problem in Gloria Scott’s home in Woburn, Massachusetts. Before long, he had recruited an army of volunteers to help.

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When a wiring problem in Gloria Scott’s old craftsman-style home blew out her kitchen light last August, it was quite literally the spark for a good deed by one kind electrician that has turned into a movement of good deeds.

After John Kinney fixed the problem, he couldn’t quit thinking about basic safety repairs the retired executive assistant’s home needed. So Mr. Kinney rounded up his network of skilled colleagues and came back to help Ms. Scott, who explains: “I kept saying, ‘Are you sure? Are you sure?’” 

Mr. Kinney was quite sure: Looking for donors for the few thousand dollars needed for materials, he started an online fundraiser with the tag line “Nice old lady needs help,” along with a Gloria’s Gladiators Facebook group.

To his surprise, $111,000 flowed in. And some of the more than 16,000 people who joined the Gladiators group now post pictures of other projects they’ve volunteered on, or request help for their own restoration projects.

“What started off as a project to just repair a few holes in Gloria’s kitchen ceiling has spiraled into a movement where she’s basically getting her whole house rebuilt,” says Mr. Kinney.

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5. An electrician’s good deed launches a movement of helpers

For years, a pale blue craftsman-style house in need of some tender, loving care stood quietly hidden away behind a curtain of overgrowth in this Boston suburb. Then John Kinney arrived.

When a shower of sparks rained down from the light in her kitchen ceiling in early August, blowing out electricity on the first floor, a neighbor referred owner Gloria Scott to Mr. Kinney, an electrician.

It was a wiring problem, he figured – not uncommon in an older house like hers. He got the lights back on, and waived the cost of his quick fix.   

Mr. Kinney could have left it at that, knowing he had helped out someone with an immediate problem. But he couldn’t stop thinking about what he’d seen: a home in need of many repairs to meet minimal safety standards.

Maintenance of the home Ms. Scott inherited from her parents had gotten away from the retired executive assistant over the past 10 years.  

“She had holes in the ceiling ... extensive plumbing damage and electrical [issues],” Mr. Kinney says. “I knew it was tough. So that day I told her, ‘Hey, I live five minutes away. If you need any help, just call me. I’ll be in here.’”

He adds matter-of-factly, “I knew she wasn’t going to call me. So I just had to come back.”

With a network of skilled colleagues, Mr. Kinney realized he was perfectly positioned to help. He returned and told her that he could triage the worst of the problems at no cost to her. 

“I kept saying, ‘Are you sure? Are you sure?’” Ms. Scott says. 

Mr. Kinney was quite sure. 

A network kicks into gear 

Work began with a small, close group of volunteers, and Mr. Kinney recorded their progress with his smartphone. When he posted the video online, he was encouraged by the positive response it drew. Hoping to find donors to help with the few thousand dollars he thought would be necessary for materials, Mr. Kinney started an online fundraiser with the tag line “Nice old lady needs help,” along with a Gloria’s Gladiators Facebook group.

To his surprise, these efforts took off: The fundraiser received more than $111,000, and more than 16,000 people joined the Gladiators group.

“What started off as a project to just repair a few holes in Gloria’s kitchen ceiling has spiraled into a movement where she’s basically getting her whole house rebuilt,” says Mr. Kinney, who found himself coordinating on a massive scale. 

Courtesy of John Kinney
When Mr. Kinney first arrived to fix an electrical problem, Ms. Scott's Woburn, Massachusetts home was in dire need of repairs, and the facade was covered in overgrowth.

“My phone rings nonstop, night and day,” he says. Volunteers began bringing trays of food each day, and several local companies donated time and resources to the renovation.

“People just kept showing up,” Ms. Scott says, sometimes as many as 20 volunteers a day. But, she adds, “John was very good at shielding me.” 

For Ms. Scott, who values her privacy, the sudden influx of attention took getting used to. But she says she realizes that the volunteers also derive a sense of purpose by following Mr. Kinney’s example. 

“I don’t know how I was blessed with John being the person that came to my rescue,” she says. “Somebody was watching over me to connect me. ... And I will always be indebted to him for what he started.”

Now, only a few months into the project, the Gladiators have transformed the two-story house. The battered roof, which once allowed animals easy access to the attic, is decked and shingled. Plumbing that spewed hot water has been replaced. Fresh drywall has been installed in the kitchen and bathroom, and new insulation fortifies the interior against the Northeastern winter. The backyard is refreshed with bright green sod and the beginnings of a new patio, along with a shored-up septic access cover. And out front, with the overgrown bushes cleared, the blue house now proudly shows its face to the world.

“It’s pretty cool,” says the neighbor, Karen Spinosa, who recommended Mr. Kinney’s services to Ms. Scott. “You get up in the morning, you open your blinds, and it’s like turning on the television to watch HGTV, you know? Let’s see what’s going on today.”

One good deed seeds many more

At the house, Ms. Scott sits in a rocking chair on her front path greeting visitors who arrive steadily throughout the day. Her chihuahua, Choo Choo, darts inquisitively in and out of the open front door. 

“Everybody knows they have to say ‘good morning’ to Choo Choo,” she says fondly. “And they have to say ‘good night,’ too.” The volunteers are pleased to oblige, and then move purposefully on to their tasks. 

In fact, progress is faster than on a regular job site, says Mr. Kinney, attributing it to the enthusiasm of those donating their time.

Rick Cailouette, a contractor volunteer, agrees: “It’s been very interesting to see how many people really care, and have put themselves out there to come and help and volunteer. It’s just awesome, you know? It’s a good thing.” 

The project energy is spreading beyond Woburn, too. On the Gloria’s Gladiators Facebook page, members post pictures of other projects they’ve volunteered on, or request help for their own restoration projects. 

“We see other chapters popping up around the country now, and it’s just been incredible to witness,” says Mr. Kinney. And he believes anyone can follow his footsteps, whether the kind deed is big or small. “All I did was get the ball rolling and call attention to something, and anybody can do that.”

Once Ms. Scott’s house is completed, Mr. Kinney hopes to continue with similar projects. “We’re trying to find the right avenue to further the word,” he says. “At this point, it’s gotten bigger than myself. The goal is just to keep the kindness spreading.”

While there are nonprofit organizations that offer house repairs for older adults, coordinated community support networks play a key role in helping people remain in their homes – even if the idea of needing assistance is uncomfortable or awkward, says Laura Ryser, a research manager at the rural and small town studies program at the University of Northern British Columbia. 

“It’s all about changing the community dialogue,” says Ms. Ryser, who studies informal support networks for older adults. “It really takes a very special coordinator and even special leadership in a community to make it OK to talk about [support systems].”

Fostering intergenerational contact and encouraging early conversations about aging is important in that process, Ms. Ryser says. More importantly, she adds, it’s essential to remember that the internet is not accessible to many older adults, so purposeful outreach with analog contact lists of trusted community members and organizations who can help out is important. 

“It’s really about just getting everyone to [understand] that it’s OK to just support people aging in their community,” she says. “And if people accept help, it doesn’t devalue their purpose or their sense of worth at all.”

For Kinney, it’s actions that matter.

A good neighbor, he says, is “observant, and is going to recognize when somebody needs help and acts on it.

“You know, it doesn’t take much. Just go in, and take the initiative.”

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A fair US election with help from foreign friends

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Soon after the hanging chad debacle of its presidential election in 2000, the United States humbly decided it was perhaps not the greatest democracy on earth. It needed foreign help to ensure the integrity of its voting process. Ever since, an unsung 57-nation body that sets the gold standard for observing foreign elections has been invited to track U.S. elections for their transparency and accountability. Now in the days before the Nov. 3 vote, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is back.

In contrast to the malicious foreign actors of the 2016 elections, the Vienna-based OSCE is offering an example of benevolent foreign interference. Its 100-plus observers are already in place and stand ready to be impartial judges in case American institutions fail at the task of determining a fair and free election.

By their mere presence, foreign election observers can help build up trust in domestic institutions. They serve as a reminder of international norms about democracy. Americans are not alone in their battle over the 2020 election. They have the support of nations wanting the U.S. to again reflect the universal values of democratic government.

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A fair US election with help from foreign friends

Soon after the hanging chad debacle of its presidential election in 2000, the United States humbly decided it was perhaps not the greatest democracy on earth. It needed foreign help to ensure the integrity of its voting process. Ever since, an unsung 57-nation body that sets the gold standard for observing foreign elections has been invited to track U.S. elections for their transparency and accountability. Now in the days before the Nov. 3 vote, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is back.

In contrast to the malicious foreign actors of the 2016 elections, the Vienna-based OSCE is offering an example of benevolent foreign interference. Its 100-plus observers are already in place and stand ready to be impartial judges in case American institutions, from town governments to the Supreme Court, fail at the task of determining a fair and free election.

In an election as contentious as this one, “it is all the more important to have a neutral, nonpartisan group of international observers who are taking account of the entire process,” says Urszula Gacek, a former Polish politician who leads the OSCE delegation.

The intergovernmental watchdog is being joined for the first time by the Atlanta-based Carter Center, which has monitored more than 110 elections in 39 countries over three decades. The center, founded by former President Jimmy Carter, has lately designated the U.S. as a “backsliding” democracy.

Healthy democracies elsewhere are closely watching the highly polarized contest between former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump. Those countries will need to offer “measured clarity,” writes Oxford University professor Timothy Garton Ash in the Financial Times, to “contribute, at the margin, to a more civilized US process.”

By their mere presence, foreign election observers can help build up trust in domestic institutions, especially in the complex task of mail-in voting. They serve as a reminder of international norms about democracy, from equality in voting to fairness in ballot counting. Americans are not alone in their battle over the 2020 election. They have the support of nations wanting the U.S. to again reflect the universal values of democratic government.

A Christian Science Perspective

About this feature

Each weekday, the Monitor includes one clearly labeled religious article offering spiritual insight on contemporary issues, including the news. The publication – in its various forms – is produced for anyone who cares about the progress of the human endeavor around the world and seeks news reported with compassion, intelligence, and an essentially constructive lens. For many, that caring has religious roots. For many, it does not. The Monitor has always embraced both audiences. The Monitor is owned by a church – The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston – whose founder was concerned with both the state of the world and the quality of available news.

Overcoming cynicism about politics

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If we’re feeling cynical about politics of whatever kind, we can pray to more clearly see God’s harmonious and good government in action. In this short podcast, a woman shares how this kind of prayer freed her from cynicism about office politics – and also healed her of plantar warts.

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1. Overcoming cynicism about politics

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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To hear Allison’s story, click the play button on the audio player above.

Originally aired as a segment in “Praying about elections,” the Oct. 26, 2020, episode of the Sentinel Watch podcast on www.JSH-Online.com. These weekly podcasts share spiritual insights and ideas from individuals who have experienced healing through their practice of Christian Science. There is currently no paywall for these podcasts, and you can check out recent episodes on the Sentinel Watch landing page.

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Ceremonial steps

Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters
Priests wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus leave the main shrine after Japan's Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako paid tribute during a ceremony celebrating 100 years since the enshrinement of Emperor Meiji at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo Oct. 28, 2020.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris. )

A look ahead

David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

Thanks for joining us. Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of our podcast series on the politics of confronting racism in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

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