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Monitor Daily Podcast

October 30, 2020
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TODAY’S INTRO

Trust the polls to reveal values, not predict the future

Four days before Election Day, we are awash in polls, which tell us … what? Former Vice President Joe Biden appears set to win the presidency, but the polls in key states could be wrong. Again. That, at least, is the fear of some voters, and for others, hope. 

But there is reason for more confidence about polling this time. For one, pollsters have adjusted how they sample and consider important subgroups.

“There’s more weighting for educational level this time,” says Terry Madonna, director of the Franklin and Marshall College Poll in Pennsylvania. His latest poll of that state has Mr. Biden ahead by 6 percentage points. 

Indeed, the “diploma divide” has only grown, with college grads increasingly voting Democratic, as my colleagues Simon Montlake and Story Hinckley write.  

Pennsylvania is crucial, as one of the three “blue wall” states that President Donald Trump won unexpectedly last time. But in many ways, 2020 is not 2016. President Trump is running as an incumbent. The polls have been remarkably stable. Undecided voters are relatively few. 

But what about “shy voters,” those unwilling to tell a pollster what they really think? That phenomenon may help Mr. Biden, too, not just Mr. Trump, notes analyst David Wasserman of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. 

More important, voters need to consider what they’re asking polls to do. 

“If the answer is to predict the future, then trust in polls is misplaced,” writes Michael Dimock, president of Pew Research Center. “But if the answer is to reveal the public’s priorities and values – and why people vote the way they do – then polls are the best tool.”

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Global report

For some abroad, ‘four more years’ of Trump sounds pretty good

Despite his broad unpopularity around the world, Donald Trump is not without his international supporters. What is it about the U.S. president that earns the respect and approval of non-Americans?

Linda
Thomas Peter/Reuters
A protester wearing a President Donald Trump mask gestures during a "March of Gratitude to the U.S." event in Hong Kong on Dec. 1, 2019. Mr. Trump's signing of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act earned him the admiration of Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrators.

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The drama of the United States election campaign has gripped onlookers around the world. Generally speaking, President Donald Trump is not popular outside the U.S. His “America First” rhetoric, his disdain for traditional allies, his apparent soft spot for foreign autocrats, and his sudden policy lurches have earned him a poor reputation internationally.

Yet he does enjoy pockets of support from many sorts of people, from Chinese dissidents to Arab sheikhs, from Russian politicians to Mexican workers. While some simply appreciate the gains that his tenure has brought to their countries, others speak of his policies and his restraint from launching the U.S. into new military conflicts as reasons for their admiration.

He’s been good for Mexico, says Hernan Dominguez Juarez, a former state-level teachers union organizer. Remittances sent home by Mexican migrants have risen almost 50% since Mr. Trump took office. “Those with family members living and working in the U.S. feel like their family is better taken care of under Trump.”

And Mr. Trump “is the first president in 40 years not to start a new war,” says Mr. Wolfmeier, a service manager in Hannover, Germany. “That’s good for Germany, good for everyone in the world.”

For some abroad, ‘four more years’ of Trump sounds pretty good

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A man on a sunshine-yellow bicycle weaves his way through traffic, pulling a sign that reads, “TRUMP 2020 KEEP AMERICA GREAT.” From the shade of a Stars and Stripes marquee, participants wait for the event to begin, lauding the U.S. president’s commitment to family values and his support for the economy.

But this is not just another standard Donald Trump campaign rally. It is taking place, on a recent Saturday afternoon, in a working-class district of Mexico City and few of the attendees have a vote in the U.S. election.

The drama of the U.S. election campaign has gripped onlookers around the world, and divided them. Generally speaking, President Trump is not popular outside the United States. His “America First” rhetoric, his disdain for traditional allies, his apparent soft spot for foreign autocrats, and his sudden policy lurches have earned him a poor reputation internationally.

Yet he does enjoy pockets of support from many sorts of people all around the world, from Chinese dissidents to Arab sheikhs, from Russian politicians to Mexican workers. While some simply appreciate the gains that his tenure has brought to their countries, others speak of his policies and – perhaps most commonly – his restraint from launching the U.S. into new military conflicts as reasons for their admiration.

Christopher Alva, who organized the Mexico City meeting, was hoping to persuade people to urge their relatives in the United States to vote for Mr. Trump because he’s supported so many Mexican Americans during the pandemic in the U.S. And because “he brings strong values, a lot of discipline to his leadership,” Mr. Alva says. “He’s really decisive in his actions.”

And he’s been good for Mexico, argues Hernan Dominguez Juarez, a former state-level teachers union organizer. The Trump administration has doubled the number of temporary farmworker visas issued each year, and remittances sent home by Mexican migrants have risen almost 50% since Mr. Trump took office.

“Those with family members living and working in the U.S. feel like their family is better taken care of under Trump,” says Mr. Dominguez.

“He helps us fight China”

The U.S. flags on display at Mr. Alva’s rally also appeared in profusion last year in Hong Kong, as hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators rallied against Beijing’s encroachment on the territory’s autonomy. And the protesters made no secret of whom they were primarily appealing to for help as they brandished his portrait: Mr. Trump.

The president’s tough stance on China – sanctioning Beijing for espionage, human rights abuses, and unfair trade practices – meant that “the overall impression of Trump was pretty positive and strong,” says Kenneth Chan, who teaches politics at Hong Kong Baptist University.

Pro-Trump euphoria reached new heights last Thanksgiving when the president signed the long-awaited Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which requires Washington to sanction Hong Kong and mainland Chinese officials who violate human rights.

Thousands rallied that night on the shore of Victoria Harbor, some holding banners depicting Mr. Trump riding a tank and others waving images of his head pasted onto Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky” torso.

“Donald Trump is the greatest president in the world,” exclaimed a young worker. “He helps us fight China.”

For similar reasons, some prominent Chinese dissidents are also Trump fans: blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng, who fled China via the U.S. Embassy in Beijing in 2012, praised his anti-China stand at this year’s Republican National Convention.

The Chinese government has remained neutral in public, but nationalist commentators on Chinese websites have suggested that a Trump victory would be good for China since his policies serve to unite the Chinese people and undermine the Western alliance system curbing Beijing.

He is known in such circles as “Chuan Jianguo” or “Build-the-Country” Trump – a patriotic nickname suggesting that Mr. Trump is aiding China’s rise. 

Disappointment in Russia

When news of Mr. Trump’s victory in 2016 reached Moscow, the Russian Duma (parliament) famously erupted in a spontaneous standing ovation. Candidate Trump had said he wanted to “get along” with President Vladimir Putin, and according to U.S. intelligence agencies the Kremlin had actively worked for his election.

Today, expectations are lower and indifference more widespread. Just 16% of focus group subjects say they prefer Mr. Trump to Joe Biden (9%), according to Denis Volkov at the Levada Center, Russia’s only independent pollster. That’s down from 38% for Mr. Trump in 2016.

“There is far less hope than before ... that anything will change in the U.S.-Russia relationship,” he says.

The Kremlin, like Beijing, might see an advantage in Mr. Trump’s disdain for Western alliances such as NATO, writes Tanya Stanovaya in a recent paper published by the Carnegie Moscow Center. Among the security services, she suggests, “what’s important is that his contradictory and destructive policies make the United States more exposed and fragile, which gives Russia freer rein.”

But Mr. Trump has disappointed his erstwhile supporters in Moscow, says Sergei Markov, a former adviser to President Putin. “All the hopes he raised in Russians were dashed. More sanctions, more tensions, less arms control, and almost no diplomatic dialogue is what we have today. But no one in Moscow has any hopes about Biden either.” Mr. Putin criticized him earlier this month for his “anti-Russia rhetoric.”

“The feeling in Moscow is that if Trump cannot pull Moscow out of its spiral of confrontation with the United States, no one can,” adds Ms. Stanovaya.

“The choice of patriots against globalization”

Europe is home to one of only three world leaders to openly endorse Mr. Trump – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who proudly calls his government an “illiberal democracy.” (The other two are also populist autocrats, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.)

French President Emmanuel Macron emphatically is not one of them, though he did try to make nice with Mr. Trump early in his term. But the American president is deeply unpopular in France except among extreme right-wing voters, with whom he is merely less unpopular. A recent Pew Research poll found that 28% of Marine Le Pen’s “National Rally” voters supported Mr. Trump; only 6% of non-RN voters did.

Carlos Barria/Reuters/File
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and President Donald Trump walk down the White House colonnade together on their way to the Rose Garden on March 19, 2019. Mr. Trump has been openly endorsed by only three world leaders, all populist autocrats. Mr. Bolsonaro is one of them.

One of them is Wallerand de Saint-Just, who is also treasurer of the National Rally party and who shares and admires Mr. Trump’s protectionist, nationalist outlook. “Joe Biden seems very weak ... compared to Trump’s huge amount of energy,” he says.

Another RN figure, European Parliament member Jérôme Rivière, likes Mr. Trump’s anti-globalization stand. “Trump is the choice of patriots against globalization,” he says. “It has an influence on our voters because it shows we are not alone, that others in power share the same ideas.”

Most importantly, he adds, President Trump has not sent soldiers abroad to fight in a new war. For decades, “each president has been involved in a war,” Mr. Rivière says, “imposed his vision of how things should work elsewhere. But not Trump. This is a notable aspect [of his presidency] and it should be congratulated.”

MAGA auf Deutsch

That is a key consideration, too, for Benjamin Wolfmeier in neighboring Germany, another country scarred by warfare. Mr. Trump “is the first president in 40 years not to start a new war,” says Mr. Wolfmeier, a service manager for a Finnish elevator company in Hannover.

“That’s good for Germany, good for everyone in the world,” he adds.

Mr. Wolfmeier, who likes to pin a Trump 2020 button to his jacket and wear a red MAGA baseball cap, is an average conservative. Half American (though not registered to vote in U.S. elections), he was once a member of Democrats Abroad.

Then “the party turned very left under Obama, especially on issues like abortion, immigration, and guns,” he says, and now he volunteers as communications director for Republicans Abroad in Germany.

Trump supporters in Germany are generally “quieter” than Democrats, Mr. Wolfmeier says. But the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) is not shy about its support for the U.S. president. Its leaders were among the first German politicians to congratulate Mr. Trump in 2016.

It is Mr. Trump’s straight talk about “America First” that resonates most deeply with Armin-Paulus Hampel, an AfD member of the European Parliament. “Trump has recognized with clear eyes that multilateral relations have failed,” says Mr. Hampel, whose website boasts a section entitled “Germany First.” “And as a German politician I have to accept this and then figure out what German interests are.”

“Why would you change chickens?”

Israeli politicians do not face that challenge: Mr. Trump has aligned U.S. interests almost completely with the Israeli government’s interests. A June poll by the Israeli Democracy Institute found that 56% of respondents (75% of right-wing voters) thought a Trump victory would serve Israel better than Mr. Biden.

Mr. Trump’s unstinting support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was epitomized by U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and its acceptance of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in 1973.

“Trump is a major prize for the Israeli people,” says Zion Vasika, who works for the municipality in Netivot in southern Israel. “If you have a chicken that lays golden eggs, why would you change chickens?”

The recent White House-brokered peace accords between Israel and two Gulf states, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, have reinforced Mr. Trump’s positive image. “He is one of the most important leaders there ever was in the United States when it comes to Israel and the Jews,” says Yosef Ben-Hor, standing behind the counter of his dry-cleaning business in Tel Aviv.

Israel’s new friends in the Gulf “see us as a force for good in the region,” says Mr. Ben-Hor. “We have the backs of those countries that are also threatened by Iran and other extremists.”

Trump in the Gulf

Indeed, few are rooting harder, albeit discreetly, for Mr. Trump than the Arab monarchs in the Gulf who have developed close personal ties with him since he attended a summit in the Saudi Arabian capital in 2017, his first overseas trip.

“Trump has been unpredictable, inconsistent at times, rude at times, but he reached out to Gulf leaders early and has a personal affinity with them,” says Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, an Emirati professor of politics. “They are more than happy with four more years of Trump.”

The U.S. leader’s hard line against Iran, which Gulf states see as their greatest threat, has made him popular in the region, and he went out on a limb to protect de facto Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman, vetoing congressional sanctions in the wake of the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, even his detractors express relief that Mr. Trump has not launched any military action in the region. “The best thing is the fact that Mr. Trump is a businessman, and businessmen don’t like wars,” says Mohammed Husseini, a Jordanian lawyer. “Four years, and he hasn’t started a single war in our region.”

Mr. Husseini also says he respects Mr. Trump’s leadership style. “I wish we had a strong leader who could stand up on the world stage and push our interests and pressure other countries for our economic benefit.”

Ann Scott Tyson in Seattle contributed reporting to this article.

Why Midwest farmers are sticking with Trump

Farmers are an important rural constituency, whose support for President Trump has held up despite his trade wars that dented exports. 

Linda
Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
A U.S. flag flies on a farm on Sept. 25, 2020, in Wisconsin. On the whole, farmers support President Donald Trump.

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It’s been a tough few years for farmers. Milk and livestock spoiled or went unsold during the initial pandemic lockdowns. And President Donald Trump’s bruising trade wars have led to retaliatory tariffs and bans on U.S. agricultural exports. 

Yet in Wisconsin, a battleground state in next week’s election, farmers remain among the president’s strongest supporters, just as they are in states like Ohio and Michigan. While their numbers are modest – farmers make up 9% of eligible voters in Wisconsin – their votes are eagerly courted by Republican campaigners seeking to offset their expected losses in suburban districts. 

Republicans can count on Terry Hock’s vote. He’s a Wisconsin dairy farmer who applauds President Trump for standing up to China. “He’s the only one that ever stood up against it, or any foreign country,” he says. “I also like the fact that he’s a businessman.”

The Trump administration has also ensured that a generous amount of federal aid flows to farmers whose exports have suffered. Last year payments from the federal government made up an estimated 40% of farmers’ incomes. 

But there are other reasons why farmers back Mr. Trump and are wary of his challenger’s agenda. Brigette Leach, a vegetable farmer in Michigan, worries about the Democrats’ Green New Deal proposals. “Anything that looks or sounds like the Green New Deal – I see nothing in any of it that bodes well for agriculture,” she says. 

Why Midwest farmers are sticking with Trump

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In the war of signage, there’s no contest along the back roads of Wisconsin. As combines cut down the last standing corn and flocks of geese crease the gray sky, the countryside blossoms with blue “Trump Pence 2020” signs that promise to “Keep America Great.”

Farming has been less than great in recent years. Buffeted by trade wars and the disruptions of COVID-19, many crop and livestock farmers have struggled. 

Last spring, dairy farmers dumped milk they could not sell; pig farmers couldn’t send their animals to market. And many farmers have gone out of business, especially in Wisconsin, where the number of dairy farms continues to fall and the good years are distinguished from the bad only by the rate of decline.

Still, for all the difficulties of the Trump era, farmers remain among the president’s staunchest supporters, reflecting both Republican leanings in general in rural America and support among farmers in particular for President Donald Trump’s stances on deregulation, trade, and related issues. In battleground states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio, farmers are a demographic that still matters, even as the broader tide has turned against Mr. Trump’s path to winning a second term. (In Wisconsin, Democratic challenger Joe Biden has maintained a steady polling lead, with the Real Clear Politics rolling average showing him up 6 percentage points.)

President Trump “is finally standing up to China,” says Terry Hock, a dairy farmer in Outagamie County, about 10 miles west of Green Bay. Mr. Hock was steering a mini loader across his barnyard on a recent morning when he stopped to talk about the election. “He’s the only one that ever stood up against it, or any foreign country,” he says. “I also like the fact that he’s a businessman.”

Then there are the payments. Under Mr. Trump, the federal government made unprecedented extra outlays to farmers – $19.3 billion in total in 2018 and 2019 – to soften the blow from foreign tariffs on agricultural exports. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that the government subsidized 40% of farmers’ incomes last year. 

Richard Mertens
Dairy farmer Terry Hock, shown in October on his farm near Green Bay, Wisconsin, is glad President Donald Trump has stood up to China.

Farmers also got big payments this year from the CARES Act, designed to shore up an economy battered by the pandemic. In Wisconsin, more than 15,000 farmers received payments averaging $3,300 apiece, according to the state’s Department of Revenue. 

“We took a little hit in March when this pandemic hit, but we’re back,” says Mr. Hock, who has 75 cows. “I’m doing good.” 

No misgivings

As a group, farmers are reliably conservative voters, and the ups and downs of the Trump years haven’t changed their politics. “There is little evidence of a farm revolt against Mr. Trump,” writes Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette University Law School Poll, in a recent report on Wisconsin. “Farmers are much more Republican than non-farmers, so most support Trump,” he writes. 

Duane Stateler, who raises pigs in east-central Ohio, says he has no misgivings about voting again for the president. 

“I think by far the farmers in my local area and across the state are for a continuation of the Trump administration,” says Mr. Stateler, who sends 16,000 pigs to market each year. In 2019, pork producers suffered when China, the world’s largest pork consumer, temporarily stopped buying American pork in retaliation against U.S. tariffs. Then COVID-19 forced the shutdown of some meat plants.

“We had gotten through the trade crisis and things were starting to rebound,” Mr. Stateler says. “There was still optimism, just as the shutdown happened.”

In the end, however, pork exports rose 9% in 2019. In January, Mr. Stateler joined other pork producers at the White House for the signing of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which should help both hog and dairy exporters. 

When COVID-19 hit, Mr. Stateler cut back on protein in his hogs’ feed so they wouldn’t gain weight, buying him time until demand recovered. And even though Mr. Stateler had a close friend hospitalized for COVID-19, he doesn’t fault Mr. Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

“I don’t think anybody could have done anything different,” he says. “You cannot blame this on one person.”

Reducing “burdensome” regulations

Brigette Leach, a farmer in Climax, Michigan, another battleground state, says she also will vote for Mr. Trump, citing his rollback of environmental and other regulations. 

“I wish sometimes he didn’t tweet quite as much,” she says. “But on the other hand, that’s almost inconsequential.”

Ms. Leach, who with her husband grows vegetables for direct sale to consumers and restaurants, is a regional board member of the Michigan Farm Bureau. In meetings, when farmers are asked “What keeps you up at night?” their top response is usually regulation.  

“The food safety regulations are a bit burdensome,” she says. “If [our operations] get much bigger, they become more burdensome and more costly.”  

Like other farmers, she is wary of the influence of Green New Deal proponents in a Biden administration, though Mr. Biden has disavowed the plan. “Anything that looks or sounds like the Green New Deal – I see nothing in any of it that bodes well for agriculture,” Ms. Leach says. 

Not all farmers are standing with Mr. Trump, of course. “I’ve been opposed to Trump from the very beginning,” says Jacob Rieke, a hog farmer in Fairfax, Minnesota. “I’ve always seen him as a terrible person. I think he’s done a terrible job for farmers.”

Richard Mertens
Farmer Jerry Biese in Outagamie County, Wisconsin, hopes President Donald Trump will win a second term, but he’s not confident of a Republican victory.

Voting Libertarian                                                  

But some who reject Mr. Trump still aren’t prepared to embrace Mr. Biden. 

Dan Diederich, a dairy farmer near De Pere, Wisconsin, says he plans to vote for the Libertarian candidate, Jo Jorgensen. Standing in a muddy pasture, with sandhill cranes bugling in the distance, Mr. Diederich expressed skepticism about Mr. Trump’s trade policies. “My gut feeling is that we are worse off,” he says. “But somebody needs to stand up to China. We had Obama as president for eight years. Did he go after China? No. It got worse. I believe wholeheartedly that Biden will not confront China.”

A committed conservationist – he plants cover crops widely and thinks more should be done against climate change – Mr. Diederich prefers government incentives over regulations to achieve environmental goals.

“The Democrats made a lot of noise in the last few years with their environmental talk that farmers don’t like,” he says. 

Jerry Biese, who farms in Outagamie County, says he worries about trade wars and dislikes Mr. Trump’s manner. “I think he should wait before he voices his opinion,” he says. But the administration’s policies have pleased him. “They’re trying to bring jobs back to the United States.”

Still, Mr. Biese is a realist. Farmers represent a shrinking group – just 9% of Wisconsin voters – and he knows firsthand some of the anti-Trump feeling in the state. “I have a daughter-in-law, if you say ‘Trump’ to her, the hair just stands up on the back of her neck,” he says. “I have a granddaughter the same way.” 

“I hope he does win,” says Mr. Biese, perched on his tractor with his hood up against a north wind. “But in my opinion, I don’t think he will.”                                                                 

‘Where are the women?’ At the UN, now there’s an answer.

Gender parity is coming to the leadership ranks at the United Nations. For women, the progress is long overdue. And while it has been and still is a priority of the secretary-general, powerful challenges remain.

Linda

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The scuttlebutt around the United Nations is that no office or agency should send up to Secretary-General António Guterres an all-male list of candidates for a position like head of a peacekeeping mission or director of a department. If anyone does, the response supposedly is curt and on the order of: “Where are the women? Get back to me with a revised list.”

Mr. Guterres took office less than four years ago with a commitment to achieve gender parity in senior positions – after a campaign in which all of his main competitors were women. Today surveys show that half of all senior leadership posts at the global body are held by women.

But behind the strong numbers overall, challenges remain. Perhaps the biggest, experts say, is not unlike what public and private sectors around the world face: retaining junior women on career paths long enough, despite domestic and traditional family-care pressures, to develop strong leadership candidates.

“The emphasis being placed on gender … is yielding good results at the leadership levels,” says Ameera Haq, a former undersecretary-general for the Department of Field Support. “But more needs to be done to build up a healthy pipeline of women who can be nurtured, mentored, and trained.”

‘Where are the women?’ At the UN, now there’s an answer.

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Kham/Reuters/File
United Nations Undersecretary-General Ameerah Haq stands with Vietnamese military officers Lt. Col. Tran Nam Ngan (right) and Lt. Col. Mac Duc Trong after the inauguration ceremony of Vietnam's Peacekeeping Center in Hanoi, May 27, 2014.

Ameerah Haq still recalls with a bit of incredulity the day a decade ago when she realized that the lofty commitments the United Nations had made for years – to place women in senior peace and security positions – had been largely lip service.

Assembling for a group photo with other special representatives for the U.N. secretary-general like herself, the Bangladeshi diplomat looked around and realized she was the only woman in a sea of men.

“I recall thinking, ‘This is 2010. It’s not 1950 or 1960,’” says the former special representative for East Timor. “‘Can we not do better than this?’”

As it turns out, yes we – or rather the U.N. – can.

Less than four years after Secretary-General António Guterres took up his post in January 2017 with a commitment to achieve gender parity in senior positions at the U.N., dozens of women have been named to key positions, and Mr. Guterres continues to all appearances to pursue his goal with a vengeance.

The U.N. has its first female undersecretary-general for political and peace-building affairs, the American diplomat Rosemary DiCarlo. Surveys show that now half of all senior leadership positions at the U.N. are held by women.

Indeed, the scuttlebutt around the U.N. is that if any office or agency dares to send up to Mr. Guterres an all-male list of candidates for a position like head of a peacekeeping mission or director of a department, the response is curt and on the order of: “Where are the women? Get back to me with a revised list.”

The remarkable progress at the U.N. toward gender parity is first a story of leadership. But it also highlights the importance of determination to reach a goal – especially at a time when countervailing geopolitical forces are increasingly buffeting the march of women’s rights and gender equity issues.

Mr. Guterres took the office of U.N. secretary-general after an election in which all of his major competitors were women. Clearly influenced by a nearly successful campaign to elect a woman to run the world’s premier diplomatic institution for the first time, the former Portuguese prime minister made elevating women a top priority.

The recent rapid rise of women in senior U.N. positions – overall since 1996, 78% of senior positions in U.N. peace operations have gone to men, for example – suggests that the pool of capable female candidates was available but untapped.

But behind the strong numbers overall for women in senior positions, experts say challenges remain for achieving gender parity, especially in field postings in the realm of peacekeeping and security missions.

Perhaps the biggest challenge, these experts add, is not unlike what the public and private sectors in countries around the world face as they seek to boost the number of women in leadership posts: retaining junior women on career paths long enough, despite domestic and traditional family-care pressures, to develop strong leadership candidates.

“The emphasis being placed on gender … is yielding good results at the leadership levels,” says Ms. Haq, who was undersecretary-general for the Department of Field Support when she retired in 2014. “But more needs to be done to build up a healthy pipeline of women who can be nurtured, mentored, and trained for these senior leadership positions.”

Lev Radin/Pacific Press/Sipa/AP/File
Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo addresses a Security Council meeting on the situation in Ukraine at U.N. headquarters in New York, Nov. 26, 2018.

Specialists who study the trajectory of female hiring, retention, and promotion at the U.N. confirm Ms. Haq’s view that despite considerable progress, stumbling blocks remain for women rising to top positions.

“The real gap remains at the middle management level at the U.N.,” says Paige Arthur, deputy director of New York University’s Center for International Cooperation. “We know that women are coming into the system in strong numbers, but once they get about five years’ experience, they start to leave the U.N.,” she says. “If you think of that middle management as the pipeline to leadership and women are leaving it,” she adds, “then there just are fewer senior-level candidates.”

Ms. Arthur is part of the NYU team that recently unveiled a new “UN Senior Appointments Dashboard” that showcases with bright graphics the upward progression of female hiring and promotion at the U.N. since 1995. Behind the dashboard’s interactive charts, she says, is “a growing sense of gender equity” and progress “at making these senior positions more attractive to a wider and more representative group of people.”

What strikes some about the dashboard is the steep rise in appointments of women to senior positions as of about 2017 – when Mr. Guterres arrived at the secretary-general’s 38th-floor offices at U.N. headquarters in New York.

“The headline frankly is the clear evidence of the secretary-general’s strong determination to do everything in his power to increase women in senior positions,” says Anne Marie Goetz, a clinical professor at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs and a specialist in women’s empowerment in peace building. “He’s not just going after the low-hanging fruit,” she adds. “He’s putting women in some of the tougher [peace and security] posts” – for example in countries that retain a traditional view of women’s role in society.

Still, when it comes to heading up a peacekeeping force or directing a stability mission, women remain much less likely to accept an offer than men – who almost always say “yes.” Why? One reason is that such postings in dangerous or unstable areas usually don’t allow for bringing families along, experts say. And women remain much more likely to turn down a post for family reasons.

“Women more than men are presented with this choice between caring for their families and accepting a position in the field they’ve been working toward for years,” says Vanessa Jackson, CARE’s representative to the U.N. “It’s a massive commitment, and for many women, it’s just too big an ask.”

Also notable in the eyes of some U.N. experts is Mr. Guterres’ perseverance despite signs of rising resistance to the broader women’s agenda, including from the Security Council’s most powerful members.

“Women’s rights, whether on the Security Council or on the streets, are facing serious backsliding,” says Ms. Jackson. “Particularly in 2019 we started seeing that commitment to women’s peace and security issues was very fragile, and that backsliding continues.”

Russia this week provided fresh evidence of the waning interest in women’s rights in the form of a watered-down council resolution on the role of women in peace and security matters.

As president this month of the Security Council, Russia proposed a resolution marking the 20th anniversary of a groundbreaking resolution that first recognized the contributions women make to successful peace and security operations. The 2000 resolution also addressed for the first time issues like sexual violence and the use of rape in conflict, and called for boosting women’s participation in peace and stability missions.

But the proposed resolution incorporates language supplied by China that downplays women’s human and civil rights in conflict and peace building, while prioritizing women’s betterment through development and other economic gains.

That language reflects an increasingly assertive China’s conception of rights, as opposed to the traditional Western focus on political rights and freedoms.

The United States continues to present itself as the world’s leading champion of women’s rights, particularly in peace and security issues, but has remained mostly quiet in this week’s debate. Last year the U.S. shocked its chief Western allies when it insisted on deleting language affirming women’s rights to “sexual and reproductive health” – language the Trump administration interprets as “abortion” – from a council resolution on sexual violence in conflict.

Yet even as such controversies rage, Mr. Guterres pursues his goal of gender equity. And despite the considerable progress he’s made within the U.N., the top diplomat acknowledges the steep climb for women, particularly in conflict settings.

At an event earlier this month commemorating the U.N.’s landmark resolution on women, peace, and security, Mr. Guterres noted that over the course of 2018, women constituted just 13% of negotiators, 3% of mediators, and 4% of signatories in conflict settlements.

And then the man who has fashioned great strides in gender equity within the U.N. concluded, “This must change.”

Rethinking the News

A space for constructive conversations

Tulsa’s Black Wall Street burned. These artists have a new vision (audio).

As Tulsa, Oklahoma, gears up to commemorate the 1921 race massacre, a new generation of Tulsans are finding ways to make the story of Black Wall Street their own. What can the country learn from their efforts?

Linda
Jessica Mendoza/The Christian Science Monitor
Jerica Wortham sits on a couch at Fulton Street Books and Coffee, a newly opened business in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Oct. 1, 2020. Ms. Wortham, a spoken-word artist and art curator, says the spirit of entrepreneurship is alive and well in Tulsa's Black community.

Tulsa has big plans for the coming centennial of the 1921 race massacre that left the city’s Black community in ruins. But while Tulsa residents say these efforts are important, for members of the city’s Black community they’re just the beginning of mourning what they’ve lost while also building something new.

One initiative, the Greenwood Art Project, aims to make sure Tulsa, and the country, know the history of Black Wall Street and the massacre. Jerica Wortham, the program director, sees art as an opportunity to invite others into the story, and to capture the spirit of the city’s thriving Black community. “I’m so excited for the world to be able to come here and experience this story, to experience it in real time, and to feel the energy of the space being reignited,” she says.

In the final episode of our Tulsa series, we hear about how Black Tulsans are processing this moment, and how art and innovation can be a catalyst for healing. - 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: ‘Everything is Us’

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Books

Without precedent: Books that shed light on America under Trump

Amid the flood of books about President Trump, three thoughtful ones stand out. They go beneath the surface to examine the president’s actions and character, but also the currents of thought that first brought him to power. 

Linda

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With Election Day looming, it’s important to understand the presidency of Donald Trump, his character, and the nature of the country that he has governed. For students of American history and readers simply looking for more context about this tumultuous period, which are the most important books about President Trump?

Here are three substantive analyses by a veteran Washington reporter, a noted linguist, and a book critic who digested a range of other accounts of this presidency.

They are a good start on understanding just what it is that’s been going on in U.S. politics these past four years.

Without precedent: Books that shed light on America under Trump

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Staff

The top-selling book of 2020 so far, according to Amazon’s bestseller list, is “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,” Mary L. Trump’s exploration of how her uncle, President Donald Trump, became the person he is.

“Too Much and Never Enough.” A reader might use that phrase to describe the overall flood of Trump-related books that has emanated from publishing houses in the United States over the last four years. 

Beginning with journalist Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” and continuing through a string of tell-all revelations from former staffers (ex-National Security Adviser John Bolton’s “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir”) and pro-Trump defenses (Donald Trump Jr.’s “Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us”), they’ve poured forth like water over a spillway of the Grand Coulee Dam.

With Election Day looming, it’s important to understand the Trump presidency, the character of the 45th president, and the nature of the country that he has governed. For students of American history and readers simply looking for more context about this tumultuous period, which are the most important books about President Trump?

Here are three substantive analyses by a veteran Washington reporter, a noted linguist, and a book critic who digested a range of other accounts of this presidency.

They are a good start on understanding just what it is that’s been going on in U.S. politics these past four years.

White House access   

There’s a scene in Bob Woodward’s book “Rage” that I can’t get out of my head. It’s not the one that’s been widely publicized at this point, where the president says he’s purposely played down the dangers of the coronavirus because “I don’t want to create panic.”

No, it’s much later in the book, when Woodward prepares to interview the president on April 5, 2020, Palm Sunday. The coronavirus was again the subject. Woodward had a list of 14 critical areas where sources had told him major action was needed.

“My goal was to cover all 14 in our interview and find out what Trump thought and might have planned,” Woodward writes.

It didn’t go well. Trump ignored some of the questions and redirected the conversation after others. 

That’s “Rage” in brief: a collision between a famous, dogged reporter who is a justifiably renowned symbol of traditional Washington, and a president who is not detail-oriented. Both seem to struggle to understand the other.

Still, it’s an excellent book. Woodward’s métier is the accretion of facts, not analysis. His 14-point thoroughness is astounding, from his unveiling letters that passed between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (Kim wrote that their historic first meeting was “reminiscent of a scene from a fantasy film”) to his obtaining Jared Kushner’s tips for understanding his president father-in-law (compare him to the Cheshire Cat in “Alice in Wonderland” was one).

In the category of books-that-document-the-inner-turmoil-of-the-Trump White House, this might be the one to read if you’re reading only one. As to Woodward’s final reading on the president, it’s not positive. Early on Trump tells the reporter that when you’re the president there is “dynamite behind every door” – an unexpected explosion that could change everything. By the end, Woodward decides that the real dynamite behind the door is in plain sight. 

“It was Trump himself,” Woodward writes.

Rhetorical devices

As to a deeper analysis of Trump’s political behavior, and how it got him where he is, the book that’s struck me the most in recent months is “Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump” by Jennifer Mercieca, a political communications expert at Texas A&M University.

Mercieca has produced a field guide to how Trump speaks, and how it helps him. She identifies many of his favorite strategies as tools of classic rhetoric. 

For instance, where he says something like “I’m not saying, I’m just ... saying, this is what I’ve heard ...” He used it in August, when he repeated the false claim that Sen. Kamala Harris can’t run for vice president because her parents are immigrants.

“I heard today she doesn’t meet the requirements,” Trump said.

“I have no idea if that’s right,” he added.

Scholars call this “paralipsis.” It’s a classical way of introducing rumors or false information into rhetoric. The speaker can stand alongside his own words without taking responsibility, and gauge how the audience reacts.

Then there’s the president’s use of “ad baculum,” threats of force or intimidation. “I’d like to punch him in the face,” candidate Trump said about a protestor at a 2016 rally. 

Calling reporters “very dishonest,” their stories “probably libelous,” and their whole industry “fake news” carries with it an implicit air of retribution.

Mercieca skillfully explains Trump’s use of other argumentative tools such as ad hominem attacks (using personal attacks to sidestep the substance of an argument) and “ad populum” rhetoric (appealing to the wisdom of the crowd, using popularity as the measure).

All leaders are demagogues, she writes – some good, some bad. But the former reality show star is a new kind. 

“He is a demagogue of the spectacle – part entertainer, part authoritarian,” she writes.

Explaining America  

As to the meaning of President Trump in American society – the trends he personifies, the groups he represents, the nature of his opponents – a new book by Washington Post book critic Carlos Lozada, “What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era,” is a unique and valuable resource. 

To write his book, Lozada set out to read some 150 other books about Trump and his presidency, dissecting and organizing them into a kind of group review, or a literary spreadsheet, covering the last four years of U.S. life.

He devotes a chapter (titled “Heartlandia”) to books that try to explain the rural white working class, the bedrock of the president’s support. There’s a chapter on resistance books, one on immigration books, one on identity politics, and one titled “Chaos Chronicles,” which is just what it sounds like.

One of Lozada’s main conclusions is that many, many of these books aren’t very good. They rehash the same White House scenes and try to top each other with chyron-ready anecdotes. They contain the same blind spots and failures of imagination as Trump himself.

“Individually, these books try to show a way forward. Collectively, they reveal how we’re stuck,” Lozada writes.

His other interesting insight is that some of the best Trump books aren’t really about Trump at all. It turns out that, just maybe, the best way to explain the man is to explain America itself, in all its faults and strengths.

So the 12 best Trump books that Lozada picks in his epilogue include “The Fifth Risk” by Michael Lewis, a short examination of the dangers of hollowing out the federal bureaucracy; “One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy” by Carol Anderson, on the history of vote suppression in the U.S.; and “We’re Still Here: Pain and Politics in the Heart of America” by Jennifer M. Silva, which examines the cultural and economic forces of working-class life.

Lozada’s book is a kind of “Norton’s Anthology of Trump Literature,” a scholarly guide that weighs and compares so you don’t have to read all 150 of those books yourself. The odds are good that, like the Norton Anthology, there will be a Vol. 2. Trump books will be rolling off the presses for years, even if he loses his bid for reelection. He has been a singular figure at such an extraordinary time in American history that readers will still be waiting eagerly in 50 years for the last volume of a definitive Trump biography by whoever has become the Robert Caro of the time.

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The Monitor's View

A bright example for the US – from the Andes

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Wouldn’t much of the world, not to mention Americans, be delighted if these statements were voiced after the Nov. 3 presidential election in the United States:

The people have “rejected the ominous predictions of confrontation and violence.”

“People voted in freedom and the result was clear and forceful, giving great legitimacy to the incoming government.”

“Citizens reaffirmed their support for democracy in a calm and respectful atmosphere, ... paving the way back to the constitutional framework.”

Actually, the three different comments were made after an election in Bolivia on Oct. 18 by, respectively, the head of the country’s electoral authority and two foreign observer groups.

What makes the statements stand out is that they mark the surprise recovery of Bolivia’s democracy. A year ago, a longtime and increasingly autocratic ruler, President Evo Morales, was forced to flee the country after a very controversial election.

Bolivian politics remains highly polarized, much like the U.S. Yet voters in Bolivia turned out calmly to restore elections and try to heal those divides. That message, even from a small country in the Andes, is a timely one for struggling democracies, starting with the U.S.

A bright example for the US – from the Andes

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A member of Bolivia's Electoral Tribunal works on the vote count after the Oct. 18 election.

Wouldn’t much of the world, not to mention Americans, be delighted if these statements were voiced after the Nov. 3 presidential election in the United States:

The people have “rejected the ominous predictions of confrontation and violence.”

“People voted in freedom and the result was clear and forceful, giving great legitimacy to the incoming government.”

“Citizens reaffirmed their support for democracy in a calm and respectful atmosphere, ... paving the way back to the constitutional framework.”

Actually, the three different comments were made after an election in Bolivia on Oct. 18 by, respectively, the head of the country’s electoral authority and two foreign observer groups, the Organization of American States and the Carter Center. The European Union also commended Bolivia for holding a clean and transparent election.

What makes the statements stand out – especially in a world leaning authoritarian and coping with the coronavirus – is that they mark the surprise recovery of Bolivia’s democracy. A year ago, a longtime and increasingly autocratic ruler, President Evo Morales, was forced to flee the country after a very controversial election in which ballot counting was inexplicably frozen for 24 hours until he was declared the winner.

Under an interim government, Bolivia has since reformed its electoral authority in a bipartisan way, cleaned up its voting procedures, and conducted a voter education campaign. With renewed faith in the system, voters turned out in record participation despite high rates of COVID-19. The underdog in the race, former President Carlos Mesa, said beforehand that he would accepts the results. The winner, Luis Arce, a former finance minister under Mr. Morales, vowed to form a government of national unity after taking office Nov. 8.

Democracy in Bolivia is now more institutionalized and less driven by personal rule. “This affirms how people want to live in peace and with institutions that fulfill their mission,” said Salvador Romero, the head of the electoral authority.

Bolivian politics remains highly polarized, divided by race and income, much like the U.S. Yet voters in Bolivia turned out calmly to restore elections and try to heal those divides. Citizens who treat each other equally at the ballot box can more easily address inequalities in society. That message, even from a small country in the Andes, is a timely one for struggling democracies, starting with the U.S.

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.

What’s behind the mask?

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There’s a kind of mask that isn’t a physical covering, but a limitation or judgment we mentally put on ourselves and others. Praying to see beyond those unhelpful mental masks and recognize everyone’s true identity as God’s child opens the door to healing, as a young man experienced when he developed a severe eating disorder.

What’s behind the mask?

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Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition

Let’s talk about masks. Not the ones people are wearing during the pandemic or even for Halloween, but the ones we mentally place on people.

Masks aren’t just physical coverings. Sometimes we judge how someone looks, talks, or acts – and then we see them as the person we’ve created in our minds. That’s like putting a mask on them. Too often we do it to ourselves as well.

These “masked” views of ourselves and others are a material perception that contrasts a deeper, spiritual nature we each have as God’s offspring. Referring to this material model of our lives, the discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “Do you not hear from all mankind of the imperfect model? The world is holding it before your gaze continually. The result is that you are liable to follow those lower patterns, limit your life-work, and adopt into your experience the angular outline and deformity of matter models” (p. 248).

Jesus was a mask-remover. He removed masks of sickness, sin, and disease – what we might call “matter model” masks – and revealed everyone’s true identity as God’s spiritual image and likeness. The result was healing of all kinds of issues. And what’s more, he said we could do this, too (see John 14:12).

When I was a teenager, I became obsessed with the idea of losing weight and developed a severe eating disorder. Many people tried to help me, but I vehemently rejected it, and my health deteriorated. The condition was eventually healed through the prayers of my mother and a Christian Science practitioner.

As I think back on that experience, I realize the thoughts I was thinking – my annoyance with those showing concern for me, and my belligerent refusal to admit that my behavior was self-destructive – were not truly my own. Even though I gave voice to them and was acting them out, they reflected a material and “imperfect model.” I had fallen for a false picture of myself. Through prayer, my identity as a spiritual and whole child of God became more fully realized, and the mask just fell away. The problem did, too.

Even when we’re wearing literal masks, each of us can make a prayerful effort to remove unhelpful mental masks from ourselves and others. When we do, we will begin to see and experience “the enduring, the good, and the true” that we really are (Science and Health, p. 261). And this is not something we’d ever want to cover up.

Some more great ideas! To read or listen to an article in the weekly Christian Science Sentinel on the value of a more spiritual perspective on government titled, “A spiritual model to guide government,” please click through to www.JSH-Online.com. There is no paywall for this content. 

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Search for the Great Pumpkin

Peter Cziborra/Reuters
People walk among pumpkins and squashes arranged as part of a display depicting a giant pumpkin wearing a face mask, at Sunnyfields Farm in Southampton, England, Oct. 24, 2020.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris. )

A look ahead

Thank you for joining us today. On Monday, please come back for staff writer Peter Grier’s look at four years under President Donald Trump and the impact on American democracy.

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