Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host.
“All I have to do is give my time.”
It’s election season and Mary Rose Brown is awfully busy for a 92-year-old.
The widowed former teacher spends her days writing postcards encouraging voters to head to the polls on Election Day.
So far, she’s sent 650 pre-addressed, pre-stamped cards out across the country from her small apartment in an Iowa Falls, Iowa, assisted-living facility.
“My goal is to send 1,000,” she told me over the phone. “I did 50 this morning.”
When you ask voters to describe our current political climate, they’re likely to come back with a word like disgusted, angry or depressing.
Heartwarming rarely comes up.
But I’d like to suggest that there’s another way to see this moment: As a period of grass-roots democratic engagement.
Bear with me for a minute. I know, it’s become fashionable to argue that the country is the most bitterly split since the Civil War.
And yes, there’s truth to that.
But we’re also engaged. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released over the weekend found that voter enthusiasm is up across the board from the last midterm contest in 2014.
A 77 percent majority of registered voters told pollsters that they are certain to cast a ballot next month, up from 65 percent in October 2014. The finding is particularly striking given that midterms have traditionally only attracted a minority of voters.
This political enthusiasm hasn’t always been pretty. There have been messy Thanksgiving dinners, P.T.A. meetings and church group discussions.
But sometimes, through all the yelling, you find people like Ms. Brown.
Born on a farm outside of Iowa Falls, she says she’s always been a proud Democrat.
“I was raised a Democrats back in the 1930s, when my dad sat with his ear tuned into the radio listening to Roosevelt,” she said, speaking over a captioned phone.
Her first job, she recalled, was connecting calls at a telephone office. Then she taught in a rural school, raised her four children and eventually opened her own income tax consulting business.
She now has six grandchildren, ten great-grandchildren (with twins coming in December), and one great-great-granddaughter. In her retirement, she volunteered for AARP, coordinating a voter education program.
Ms. Brown will be the first to admit that her postcards are partisan. They come as part of a program run by Tom Steyer, the billionaire Democratic activist. So far, the group has sent 1.5 million cards.
But Ms. Brown says her bigger goal is to convince people that their vote matters.
“What I am saying to the people on the postcards is, ‘Your vote will make a difference,’” she said. “I tell them my personal story, which is not very much. I’m a 92-years-young grandmother voting Democratic for a better future for all. Then, I just say thank you, please vote.”
Ms. Brown is busy: She convinced a few of her friends at her assisted-living facility to help write some cards, and she’s also been collecting absentee ballot requests from others in her community.
Will all that work matter on Election Day? Ms. Brown isn’t sure. But, she says, she has to try.
“I do it because I firmly believe that I have some God-given blessing here that I’m able to do this in the first place,” she said. “I just have to be hopeful that at least a few will vote.”
Anatomy of an interview
Last night, President Trump was interviewed on the TV show “60 Minutes.” We asked James Poniewozik , the chief television critic for The Times, what he thought of the segment. Here’s what he told us:
When Lesley Stahl sat down with President Trump on “60 Minutes,” they were in the same room. But they didn’t seem to think they were on the same show.
Ms. Stahl believed she was doing a presidential interview, a ritual whose purpose is to press for information. From that traditional perspective, she did well enough.
President Trump, on the other hand, saw the conversation the way he sees everything: as a competition. For him, it was an “Apprentice” boardroom. What matters in the boardroom is not to be accurate, or honest, or empathetic, but to dominate, assert, fight.
There is no fact-checker in the boardroom. Here, Ms. Stahl took that role, following up and pushing back in a way Mr. Trump has mostly avoided by doing interviews in the greater “Fox”-verse. (Some things still got by, like an unsubstantiated claim that China meddled in the 2016 election.)
At other times, Ms. Stahl and the president seemed like beings from different planets, trying to discuss alien concepts without a common language. She wondered what he would think about climate change if he saw the glaciers falling into the Arctic, though there is not a rich history of Mr. Trump being swayed by evidence. She asked if he had regrets. What are “regrets”?
The impasse was most glaring when Ms. Stahl asked about the president’s mimicking of Christine Blasey Ford at a Mississippi rally. Was it necessary to make fun?
Necessary? It was a moral question, the kind Mr. Trump has never shown much evidence of pondering. He asked, instead, if Ms. Stahl had seen “what’s gone on with the polls” since the Kavanaugh hearings.
Sometimes it was as if Ms. Stahl were asking questions of a generic American president, one who cared about at least the appearance of higher principle. But the president who answered her was the one we actually have, for whom there is only one important and irrefutable retort.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said, shutting down the questions about Dr. Blasey. “We won.”
2020 watch: Warren’s test
Check out what she’s done over the past two months:
• Released 10 years of tax returns.
• Disclosed academic records indicating she did not use her ancestry to win preferential treatment as a law professor at Harvard University or the University of Pennsylvania.
• Deployed staff to help with midterm races in early presidential primary states and key 2020 battlegrounds.
Today’s release was complete with a polished political video interspersing interviews with Ms. Warren’s family with Republican attacks. Ms. Warren’s focus was ostensibly on Mr. Trump. But her release was aimed at assuaging concerns among Democrats worried about potential political vulnerabilities.
Republicans pointed to Ms. Warren’s small percentage of Native American ancestry. The Boston Globe reported Ms. Warren is “between 1/64th and 1/1,024th Native American.”
When asked by reporters this morning, Mr. Trump denied that he previously vowed to contribute $1 million to Ms. Warren’s favorite charity if she took a DNA test and it showed she had Native American roots.
Ms. Warren tweeted in response: “Here’s something you won’t ‘forget,’ Mr. President: You’re the least popular president in modern history & your allies will go down hard in the midterm elections. 22 days. Tick-tock, tick-tock.”
Asked again later in the day, Mr. Trump said that he would only donate the money if he could “test her personally.” He added, “That will not be something I enjoy doing, either.”
Consider the exchange a preview of the next few years.
What to read tonight
• In the years before abortion became legal, a clandestine group helped women with unwanted pregnancies get around the law. Learn about them in the Retro Report.
• A detailed look at how genetic testing helped a kidnapped girl find her family decades later.
• Newt Gingrich turned partisan battles into blood sport. Now, he’s reveling in the world he made. Read the profile in The Atlantic.
If you’re in Savannah, Ga., be on the lookout — a googly eye bandit is on the loose!
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