Last November, when Capital & Main launched “United States of Inequality,” our yearlong series about the 2020 presidential election, unemployment was at an historic low and the stock market was soaring.
Yet, even then, it was abundantly clear that the foundation underneath the supposedly booming economy was a shaky one.
Then, in early 2020, the coronavirus arrived on U.S. shores and began to spread, overwhelming hospitals and ripping through nursing homes, prisons and meat packing plants. Millions lost jobs and faced the prospect of losing their health insurance.
In a flash, 2020’s biggest story – the fate of the Trump presidency and the direction of the Democratic Party – was eclipsed by urgent questions about day to day survival.
But the pandemic also highlighted issues that were already becoming part of the national conversation, especially among Democratic candidates for president: a broken health care system, growing economic inequality and severe racial disparities.
COVID-19 – which first began to spread in densely populated cities – has made crystal clear hard truths about race in America. Those dying from the virus, “essential workers” risking their health every day and those forced onto the unemployment rolls are more likely to be people of color. Meanwhile, those working comfortably from home are more likely to be white.
Against this background came the brutal, on-camera killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by Minneapolis police. It set off months of protests by a cross section of Americans who were ready to make the protection of Black lives a front burner issue.
Through all of these events, the specter of the presidential match-up in November has continued to loom large. It has been a singular focus of a commander in chief who has taunted protesters and urged states to restart their battered economies even as COVID-19 cases have surged. It has arguably contributed to the leftward movement of Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee.
The issues that motivated Capital & Main to undertake “United States of Inequality” are more relevant than ever. We are working with reporters in crucial swing states – Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Arizona and Ohio – to tell stories about how the pandemic and an economy that benefits fewer and fewer people are affecting voters. Our goal is to illuminate how these key voters’ decisions will affect the nation as we approach one of the most consequential elections of our lifetime.
Illustration by: Design Urban
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