Are Americans Talking about the Most Important Issues This Election Cycle? (40:13)

Some say in this election the very soul of the country is at stake. Others want to make law and order the primary issue. But what about debt, spending and war? Henry Olsen, Washington Post columnist and senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center; Jonathan Rauch, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution; and Emily Ekins, research fellow and director of polling at the Cato Institute will discuss: are Americans talking about the most important issues this election cycle?


Caleb O. Brown: Some say in this election the very soul of the country is at stake.

Slide – Cornel West, Harvard Professor: Right now, there’s a massive crisis in the legitimacy of any leadership.

Caleb O. Brown: Others want to make law and order the primary issue.

Slide – Leo Terrell: These are thugs out there attacking law-abiding citizens.

Caleb O. Brown: But what about debt, spending, and war? If Americans can broadly agree on nothing else, we should be able to agree that much of the bitterness and political tribalism that drives our public discussions is unhealthy for our country. The Cato Institute, in collaboration with the Brookings Institution, present Sphere.

In this episode: “Are Americans talking about the most important issues this election cycle?” Joining us are Emily Ekins, a research fellow and director of polling at the Cato Institute, Henry Olsen, Washington Post columnist and senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. So, welcome to all of you. Henry, I want to start with you. Are Americans talking about the most important issues this election cycle, and as you see it, what are they talking about?

Henry Olsen: Well, I think Americans are talking about the things that have occupied public attention for quite a while, which is obviously President Trump up or down. I think increasingly Americans are talking about questions of race, and the appropriate role of public order and reform with respect to that. But they’re not really talking about the traditional issues that people talk about in campaigns. The Democrats have a very large agenda and an aggressive agenda, that is likely to come as a surprise to many Americans if Joe Biden wins in the fall. And Trump has an implicit agenda, even though formally he actually has none with no Republican Party platform this time. But there’s quite clearly a Trump sense of where the country ought to go that is also not being talked about very much. So, whichever party wins, I suspect Americans are going to be surprised at what comes out of the actual policy deliberations in January 2021.

Caleb O. Brown: All right, Jonathan. It may be a shocker either way, according to Henry. What do you think?

Jonathan Rauch: Well, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a relatively issue-free election. In 1984, Ronald Reagan, as an incumbent ran on “It’s Morning in America” and feeling better about things, and people warned him at the time, Mr. President, if you run without a second-term agenda, events will take control of things. It turned out he had a historic second term, but we’re seeing something, I think, like that again this time. But even more so, the personality of Donald Trump has rightly, in my opinion, taken over the election. It’s almost completely a referendum on Trump. That may be appropriate, but it’s also burying some very important questions that I think ought to be asked right now. One is, as Henry said, the problem of federal debt. We’re about to exceed the all-time record federal debt, which was right after World War II. We’re going to just break that ceiling and go right past it. American alliances need to be rethought in a systematic way, immigration needs to be rethought, we’ve got to reach something closer to a consensus on the environment and climate change, and all these things are doable. It’s just a shame that the election is not helping to do them.

Caleb O. Brown: All right, to you Emily Ekins. What are Americans concerned about? What are they talking about? And as far as, what does the polling tell us?

Emily Ekins: Well, I actually, I wanted to respond briefly to something that John brought up, comparing this election in some ways to 1984, about is it wise to have an election that’s not really about issues, but kind of these broader kind of themes at hand? And what’s funny is I just came across a poll conducted by The Economist and YouGov that asked people if you’re better off today than you were four years ago. Now, it doesn’t ask about economically specifically, but that’s often implied. And even despite the pandemic, most Americans said “yes” to that question. But then the following question asked, “Do you think the United States as a country is better off than it was four years ago?” Then a majority of people said “no.” But when asked about they themselves personally, despite the pandemic and the financial crisis that has resulted from the pandemic, most people actually say that they are better off. So, that is interesting. But I concur that this election seems to have less to do with issues, like policy issues in the traditional sense, whether we’re talking about healthcare, or government spending, or debt, immigration, and so forth. But something that’s really struck me is that your partisanship often shapes what issues you actually think are most important. And I have a funny little anecdote I’d like to share. I was sitting down with a group of pollsters across the political spectrum to talk about questions that we should be asking for this upcoming election. And one of the people that I sat down with said, “Okay, I got all the questions, you know, stuff about Trump, election interference, Russia, issues about race, of systemic racism and sexism, and the pandemic. There we go.” And I thought, oh, that’s so interesting, because those are not all of the issues that voters care about this election, right? And, if you talk to Democratic voters, that really does define a lot of how they’re thinking about this election. But for Republican voters, it has a lot to do with concerns about law and order, about perceptions of censorship and marginalization, and as well as issues about things like American heritage, the identity of America. You know, tearing down statues, how do we define the history of America, and how do we think about America’s founding? That is shaping a lot of how Republican voters are seeing this election. So, what’s so important is that your political perspective shapes the very issues you think matter for November.

Caleb O. Brown: And to you, Henry, how many of these issues, some of the ones that Emily described and some others that I’m sure you can think of, are wedge issues? In your view, substantial, or some mix of both?

Henry Olsen: Well wedge issues are always substantial. I think it’s really condescending to say that they’re not, because the reason they are wedge is precisely because many people care intensely about them. It’s a pretty bad wedge issue if people don’t care about it. And I don’t think people should be substituting their own judgment as to whether something is substantial or not. I think that anything that people care seriously about are serious issues. And, that’s one of the failings of our politics in recent years is that we, as policy elites, have tended to dismiss concerns that people who are not well-represented in Washington have, and say well, that’s either not important, or we may not even recognize that they exist, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t care about them. And one of the reasons Trump broke through so clearly was because he talked about things that people wanted to talk about that other people were not really talking about or talking about in the right way.

Caleb O. Brown: Is it your view, Henry, then, that parties have too much or too little sway when it comes to the issues that people care about?

Henry Olsen: Well, it depends what you mean by parties. I mean that, I think what you have in America is a competition of ideas, but, like in many economic markets, incumbents often overlook things that people want. You know, IBM thought there would be no demand for a personal computer in 1981. Well, you could expect the owner and producer of mainframes to think that nobody would want a cheaper, less powerful alternative to what they were selling. And I think that’s what we went through in 2016, and, to an extent, are still going through, which is incumbent players either choosing to ignore, or wanting to overlook, new issues that people care about that outsiders, whether they have become semi-insiders like Bernie Sanders or not, are bringing to the forefront. And those are many of the issues that, if we’re not discussing in this campaign, we will be discussing after the election.

Caleb O. Brown: Jonathan, to you. Are there some particular ideas that have come about just in recent years that have – I don’t want to say afflicted, but have glommed on to parties that you think will be sticking around long-term?

Jonathan Rauch: Well, it depends which party you mean. Democrats clearly have moved to the left, substantively, on a lot of issues. I think Barack Obama, for example, as he ran in 2008, would be way too far to the right for the Democratic Party. Certainly Bill Clinton would be, and I think that will stick around for a while. I don’t, however, think that the Democrats are a radical party. I think they’re a mixed party with a radical wing. They’ve also got a substantial and thriving center left. It’s anchored, as it happens, in the African-American community, which is, tends to be more culturally conservative and actually tends to be less woke than the progressive white liberals who tend to dominate on the left end of the party. The Republican Party is different. It’s – Henry may disagree. We’ll see. But I think these days it’s behaving more like a personality cult than like a traditional party. Parties traditionally assemble members of a coalition, iron out differences, try to present a unified Trump front. Excuse me – Freudian slip there. And thus, for instance, that’s how they create platforms, right? That’s a way for a party to make a collective statement. This party said we’re not going to do that. We’re just going to say Donald Trump is our guy. We’re behind Trump, wherever he leads us. Well, that is very unusual behavior in an American party. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before. So, we have a party that I think is behaving in a way it has not behaved in the past, and other parties have not behaved in the past. I would argue it’s not really doing its job anymore of assembling a coalition and an agenda, and that worries me.

Caleb O. Brown: Emily, I’ll start with you. But I’d like all of you to jump in on this. In the event of either a Biden or a Trump victory or loss, what ideas simply go away?

Emily Ekins: Caleb, that’s an excellent question. I think some of the issues at play in this election will stick around, but I think some of them might go by the wayside over time. In particular, I’ve been following voter attitudes on the issue of trade. I think that that issue has become symbolic about a broader set of problems and, you know, whether or not people support a specific trade agreement or the idea of more or less trade has become a little bit less important than that broader issue. And to give you an example, data that was collected as part of the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group that Henry and I are both a part of has been tracking voter attitudes using a panel dataset. And in 2016 there really was kind of a decline in Republican support for free trade. I think the issue of trade kind of taps into a broader cultural issue that I think actually is important and will stick around. And what that means, I think a lot of voters feel like people in the political parties, the partisan elites, put the interests and feelings of, you know, other elites and people outside of the country above the needs of American citizens. And trade is an issue that kind of symbolizes that for a lot of voters. And so, Trump comes in and says, “I’m going to put you first. I’m going to make sure that other groups don’t, you know, that other countries don’t cheat American citizens.” And so, we see that in the polling data. But I think if another president is elected or a different candidate came in and talked about the issue slightly differently, I don’t think there’s that much antipathy towards trade that will last after the election.

Caleb O. Brown: Henry.

Henry Olsen: Well, I think there are very few issues that will entirely fade away. One thing that we do tend to find, though, is certain things are magnified by the presence of an individual or not. And I suspect that the Republican Party will find if Trump loses that Trump has much less actual sway among its members than it does when he is the titular head and the president. That in opposition, the Republican Party will resume much more of its traditional role and much less of the current presidential party that it is. But even then, there’ll still be a large number of people who think Donald Trump is the answer and was unfairly deprived of whatever they think he was unfairly deprived of. So, it would lessen in intensity or in impact, but it won’t go away entirely. And I think the same thing is perhaps due to trade, that it’s probably not a coincidence that people feel less intently negatively toward it when the president has made some changes in favor of bringing manufacturing back home and manufacturing jobs have been up and blue-collar incomes have been up. If that starts going in the other direction in the next few years, I wouldn’t be surprised, particularly if it’s accompanied with a return to normal with respect to trade. I wouldn’t be surprised if that were to regain some intensity, but it won’t go away entirely, even if it does lessen.

Caleb O. Brown: Jonathan.

Jonathan Rauch: Yeah, seems about right. I think one area where I might shade my answer a little bit differently is – so I’m going to now give a 20-second summary of an article I wrote. I see the Trump phenomenon as actually the latest in a series of populist outbursts that have gone on in American politics, starting with George Wallace in 1968, and I see the Trump constituency as very similar to Wallace’s constituency. Also, Pat Buchanan’s constituency in 1992 and 1996, and Sarah Palin’s constituency. And Trump’s disappearance may mean there’s no immediate catalyst for that group to rally around, but it’s approximately, by my back of the envelope calculation, about 25% of the American electorate, roughly the same as it was in George Wallace’s day, and it’s now been mobilized. It’s been shown that it can win. It can take over a party, it can take over the White House. And once a constituency has shown that, it doesn’t just disappear in the woodwork. So, no, I don’t think the Republican Party will go back to its old establishment days of being, you know, the party of Paul Ryan and John Boehner. I think the Wallace vote has migrated in probably a pretty solid and permanent way into the Republican base and is going to be an important, if not decisive, factor in the party’s future for about a generation.

Henry Olsen: You know, that’s different than what I said, you know, that it’s not a question of it being a personalist party. You know, that’s what I said would fade. But yes, the Republican Party is becoming a more populist blue-collar element. I think the data are pretty clear that the Wallace constituency is not the same as the Trump constituency. The Buchanan constituency was largely a precursor of the religious right. If you look at the counties where he did best in, they tend to overlap with the places where subsequent religious-oriented candidates would do well. But it does look a lot like the Perot constituency, and there are elements where all of these things overlapped. The Republican Party will go back to being a normal party in the sense that it is not personalist. But it will be a different party, much as any center-right party anywhere in the globe is becoming more populist, because people are changing parties on the basis of whether they perceive the system works well for them or not, which means virtually any educated, centrist, former center-right party member is moving to a new party, whether that’s in Germany going to the Greens, or in Britain going to the Labour Party.

Caleb O. Brown: Emily to you. To what extent does wealth, income, and the color of your collared shirt predict about the views that you might hold?

Emily Ekins: Well, we are observing a shift in voter behavior that predates Trump, that we can trace back to about maybe 15 years ago, where we saw increasing numbers of people with college degrees voting in a more Democratic direction and people who had finished high school but had not attended college voting in a more Republican direction. And that’s notable because it used to be reversed. In the past, people with college degrees voted Republican, and people like the blue-collar workers, tended to vote Democratic. And now we’re actually seeing a reversal there, and that predates Trump. Trump is probably somewhat a manifestation of those shifts that had already occurred. But I also wanted to say something else in regards to the earlier conversation. I think it’s really important to remember that American politics, politics across the globe, is all about coalitions. Parties are coalitions of different groups of people that have different priorities and different issues that they care about, and they come together for one reason or another. And no one group is just necessarily, usually at least, the majority of the whole party coalition. And so, different groups within the party, at different times and for different reasons, kind of get in the driver’s seat. So, for the Republican Party, we’ve seen that with, you know, the religious right taking more of a driver’s seat. But that doesn’t mean they were the majority. In fact, they actually attracted people into voting who hadn’t been voting consistently Republican in the past. We saw the same thing with the Tea Party movement in 2010, people who were a little bit more fiscally conservative-minded kind of getting activated. They’re the ones showing up to the primaries, and we saw something similar happen with Trump in the primaries, where people who traditionally had not been these consistent, loyal Republican voters in the past, although many of them were, kind of coming out of the woodwork. These are people who didn’t identify as evangelicals, who didn’t identify as the Tea Party, but here they are coming out and energized by Trump. And I think that the same is true for the Democratic Party, but less has been said to really investigate kind of those interesting coalitional groups that are shaping the Democratic Party going forward.

Caleb O. Brown: Henry, to you. You wrote a piece not long ago called “McCarthyism is back. This time, it’s woke.” What was the point you were trying to make there and how does that inform people’s willingness to really engage on a lot of these issues?

Henry Olsen: Well, I think what you’re seeing with the – I called it “McCarthyism of the woke” because McCarthyism was an overreaction to the Communist threat. That meant that people were being rooted out of private sector jobs because of perceived Communist sympathies. Whether in the case of Lucille Ball, who was at the time the most popular actress on American television, 16 years earlier she had briefly registered as a member of the Communist Party and, had she not been the most popular actress, she probably would have followed in line with many less famous people who lost their ability to ever get hired in Hollywood again, because of something she had done 20 years earlier. That’s what we’re seeing with what’s called cancel culture. It’s just the same phenomenon under a new guise, and what it does is mean that people who are afraid of a mob who will take away their livelihood tend to self-censor themselves, and what it does is suppress actual discussion of things, much as McCarthyism suppressed for a good number of years a discussion of a rational policy towards the Soviet Union.

Caleb O. Brown: Jonathan, you signed a letter recently published in Harper’s, entitled “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate.” It was signed by a broad coalition of people, and it says “it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought.” So, I’m sensing there’s some agreement between you and Henry here on the willingness, in general, of people to speak out.

Jonathan Rauch: There is some agreement on this, and my view on this is informed by a poll by one Emily Ekins, which I hope she’s about to tell you about. But, yes, a number of studies show that Americans are now more worried about speaking their mind on controversial issues than they have been for generations, possibly more worried than they were in the McCarthy era. And a group of activists, predominantly on the left, have discovered that the soft underbelly of free speech in America is that if you use social media to make someone extremely controversial, their employer will often drop them because the employer has the choice of hiring people who are less controversial. So, people lose their livelihoods, and that can be a terrifying experience. Just being singled out and shamed on social media can be a terrifying experience. So, yeah, I was proud to be one of, I think, 157 signers of a letter saying, “Those of us who care about a culture of open conversation on important issues need to start worrying about this.” I should also add, though, that the large majority of people on that letter were center left or progressive. There were people from across the spectrum, but one of the things that’s starting to happen that I think is healthy is I think some progressives, some people on the left are also starting to say, wait a minute, this is going too far. Let’s not forget the values of free speech that people like Martin Luther King, for example, and Frederick Douglass championed. So, I think it’s a healthy development. We’re starting to see some reexamination and some people tapping the brakes.

Caleb O. Brown: To you, Emily Ekins, who’s not at least a little chastened by what is popularly known as cancel culture or at least this chilling effect that people seem to be experiencing with respect to speaking out on issues. Who’s not afraid?

Emily Ekins: Well, you know, this dovetails nicely into the poll that we conducted at the Cato Institute that John just mentioned, where we found that most Americans, 62%, feel like the political climate today prevents them from sharing their political views. But yes, there was one group that did stand out that felt like they could share their views, and those were people who identified as very liberal. And this divided the Democratic coalition between people who say they’re liberal versus very liberal. A majority of liberals and Democrats say that they feel like they can’t express themselves, whereas a majority of people who identify as very liberal say they can. They feel like they can. But there’s been a shift across the board, including for those on the progressive left, in the center, and on the right, more and more people feel like they can’t express themselves politically, and I think that this has a number of consequences for the democratic process. First, voting is something that you can do in private, but much of the democratic process extends far beyond voting. It involves being able to contribute to candidates and causes that you personally believe in, to be able to talk about an issue that you care about and explain why you believe what you do and if you want, try to persuade others and go back and forth. Now, that can’t happen if the transaction costs of participation are so high that people just choose to disengage. And I wanted to just give a brief example that really highlights this. In a poll that I conducted several years ago, we asked people if they supported or opposed preventing or canceling a university campus speaker who would advocate for or say various things. And one in particular was, would you support canceling a speaker who would criticize and show disrespect for the police? About half of respondents said yes, cancel that speaker. And then we also asked, would you support or oppose canceling a speaker that says that the police are justified in their stopping practices and the other things that they’re doing that, you know, people are criticizing them for. And we found that about half of Americans said no to that, too. So, if you take this all together, if you go along with canceling both of those speakers, we now wouldn’t be allowed to have a campus speaker who defends the police or a campus speaker who criticizes the police. How on earth are you supposed to actually have a productive conversation about how to improve policing in America if you can’t talk about it, if you can’t criticize or defend? And so, I think that this really is a very important issue that is really impacting this election but extends beyond this election, because I think that what’s happening is it’s narrowing the area of discourse, the boundaries of discourse that people feel like they’re allowed to engage in. People see the boundaries that are being erected around where people are getting fired, or publicly shamed, or humiliated, you know, what ideas got them in trouble, and people say I want to steer far clear from that boundary. I’m not even going to get close. And for many people that just means staying silent. And that’s going to have some deleterious effects on our democratic process.

Caleb O. Brown: We haven’t spoken of issues near and dear to my heart. Those are war, spending, and debt. Those issues do not seem to be ones that are proscribed with respect to people’s ability to talk about them in public. And yet, I pound my head against the wall because very few people seem to care about them. Jonathan, give me some comfort here.

Jonathan Rauch: Well, I’m not sure if this will be comforting Caleb, and I’ll be curious to see what Emily, an actual pollster, and Henry, an actual political expert, have to say. But my perception is that both of those issues are indeed very important, as you said, that is debt and spending on the one hand, and war and peace on the other, they are fundamental. But there are two reasons they’re not being talked about. One, as we mentioned, is Donald Trump and his character and this election being a referendum on him in particular in a way that no election in my lifetime, reelection campaign, quite has been. But second, there’s a broad American consensus on those issues at the moment. Not everyone, but for better or for worse, I think a lot of people would say for worse, there is a consensus that deficits don’t really matter. Interest rates are now so low, and we’re in a deflationary environment, or at least disinflationary in the dollar. Everyone wants to rush and buy U.S. assets, no matter how much money we print. So, the general feeling is both because we have to because of the pandemic and because we’re able to because of the economic environment, there’s really no penalty for running up the debt. On war and peace issues, it’s interesting to see that Donald Trump is far from being a neocon. He’s closer to what had been in some ways the Democratic Party consensus, which is being wary of getting involved in foreign entanglements. So, neither party really wants to run around the world being a policeman or getting involved throwing America’s weight around militarily. So, there’s not much debate between the parties about those things, for better or for worse.

Caleb O. Brown: Henry, do you have something better than what Jonathan just told me? Because I’m getting concerned.

Henry Olsen: Absolutely not. There’s no appetite for cutting government, none that has any political clout. The deficit is something that fuels the American misconception that you can have an extensive welfare state without having to pay for it. You know, eventually that is going to come home to roost, and what we’ll find is that Americans will grudgingly permit taxes to be raised because there’s no significant desire to cut spending. With respect to war and peace, there’s also not really an American desire to intervene on the fringes of what’s better called the American Empire, that I would be very worried if I were in Estonia or if I were a Afghanistan, because Americans don’t particularly care. They don’t feel threatened enough to defend those countries. It would be another thing if there were Soviet tanks marching through east Germany, or North Korea attacked South Korea, or China invaded a country, you know, that then I think it would wake Americans up. But people aren’t talking about war and peace because both sides generally agree that there ought to be peace, and they merely differ about the degree to which one should be verbally but not actually bellicose.

Caleb O. Brown: All right, Emily, where do Americans rank things like war, peace, spending, and debt? I have to assume, based on what I’ve just heard, that it’s pretty low. 

Emily Ekins: Like what Henry and John said, this is just not a salient issue for voters right now. There’s something, there’s an idea in political science called policy moods. And this idea is that when a Democratic president is in office, the voters tend to become a little bit more conservative. They become more worried about the size and scope of government and spending, and when there’s a Republican president in office, voters become less concerned about spending, things like that. And this is true across policy issues. So, basically, whichever party is in the president’s office, voters kind of go the other direction. And so, you can see this over, you know, five to seven years, five to eight years. There’s these, kind of these broad shifts in public mood and attitudes about these issues. So, right now, we’re kind of at a point where most people aren’t that worried about government spending, but particularly because we’re in the midst of a pandemic. This is a huge crisis that voters realize are not the fault of individual voters. So, if you compare government spending during this pandemic compared to the government response to the 2008 Great Recession, voters are way more supportive of spending this time around than they were then. And the reason is that back then people felt like people made bad decisions and they were being rewarded and bailed out for those bad decisions. This time around, I mean, whose fault is it? It’s no one, no individual person’s fault, and so for that reason, they’re far more supportive of government spending. But I, too, am very concerned because we have spent so much more than we have taken in in tax revenue each year for so long, we’ve racked up, what is it – about $26 trillion in debt. For the first time ever, our national debt exceeds the GDP, Gross Domestic Product, which is basically all the stuff we make in a year. So basically, we owe as much as we make in a year. That’s a lot of money to owe, so that when a natural disaster or a big crisis comes along, we don’t have the cushion to go in there and spend lots of extra money because we’ve already spent it. But voters aren’t thinking of this. And to John’s point that people feel like deficits don’t matter, they don’t want it to matter. And I think that it’s very easy and convenient for politicians who want to get reelected to be able to keep continuing to spend money and unfortunately, I think it’s conveyed the idea to many voters what they hoped was true all along, that we could just spend this money without consequence. But eventually this is going to come home to roost and voters are going to have to pay higher taxes, their savings are going to be worth less, there are consequences for this level of spending, and eventually voters are going to be dealing with it.

Caleb O. Brown: All right, final thoughts. Jonathan, we’ll start with you.

Jonathan Rauch: Yeah. So, this is an unusual election in a lot of ways, but I’d just like to close by circling back to something that Henry alluded to earlier, which is that the Democrats do have an agenda. They do have a platform. Not everybody knows it. And Democrats campaigning, Biden’s campaign has certainly been light on policy, but we know they’re going to take another run at healthcare reform. We know they’re going to try to go back to a more traditional alliance structure. We know that they’re going to go back into the Paris accords and get active again, for example, on climate change and other environmental issues, and all of that we know. We don’t really know what the Republicans would do. They really don’t have a platform, to an even greater extent than Democrats. They’re not talking about issues, and that means we’re in a very peculiar place if Donald Trump wins reelection. He will be the heart and soul of his party. He will lead it in whatever direction he chooses. Knowing him, I’m guessing that will be a lot of different directions at once, and I think the result of that could be a very strange and difficult four years. 

Caleb O. Brown: Henry, any final thoughts?

Henry Olsen: I just think with respect to this election, it is something that likely is going to be a Democratic win, but events that conspired against Donald Trump for the last five months are seemingly conspiring in his favor now. His job approval rating on the RealClearPolitics average is back above 44% and we’ll see whether or not that continues. Joe Biden did not get a convention bounce. It looks like Donald Trump will. That’s another thing that’s ahistorical. Usually both parties get a convention bounce. I think the question is going to be, one way or another, what sort of democracy and country do we want to have? If the victory is to the Democrats, they will be in the driver’s seat. But again, there’ll be a lot of things that party wants to do that the people have not necessarily focused on. I think it’ll be a wake-up call. And then, if the Republicans win, I think Democrats will have to decide whether or not they will finally admit that he is the legitimate President of the United States, not to say deal with him, but deal with him in a different, less inflammatory way. And Trump will have to decide whether or not he is out for vengeance or victory. And it could be a very uncomfortable time for Americans, regardless of what happens.

Caleb O. Brown: Emily.

Emily Ekins: Well, I guess my concluding thoughts have to do with thinking about, as we approach this election, you know, how certain are we about what’s going to happen? And I like what Henry is talking about because that’s more of the implications of the election, which are ultimately more important, but where I can weigh-in is on the certainty around this election. I think a lot of people feel like it’s a likely Democratic win, and if you’re risk averse and you’re betting your money, you know, that would be a fair bet, to bet on a Democratic win in November. But I was surprised by a couple of things that showed it to be a little bit less certain than I think a lot of people realize. First, is that Joe Biden’s support is pretty soft. Actually, more people dislike him or disapprove of him than like him, which is reminding us a lot of 2016 because both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both candidates in which more people dissed them than liked them. That was very different than the Obama election, where people generally have a positive view of him, and they still do. So, Biden’s support is soft, and most Biden voters say they are not voting for him, but they are voting against Trump. So, the question that I’m asking is when people turn out to vote, are they ultimately driven by fear of their opponent, or are they driven by love of the candidate that they like? And the political science literature on this is kind of mixed, so we don’t really have a clear answer on that. The other thing that surprised me is if you look at economic models that forecast who’s going to win the election, these are models that are done by academics that just take into account economic fundamentals of the economy. So, it does not have to do with what Trump has recently tweeted, or the campaign messaging, or what the talking heads are saying. It’s just about kind of changes in the economy. Those models, either if you look at Ray Fair at Yale, or you look at the FiveThirtyEight economic model, they both predict a tie right now between the two candidates, where Trump was leading for most of this time, but obviously, with the pandemic and the financial crisis that has ensued, it has changed things quite a bit. And that also Trump’s polling throughout this election, he actually did very well at the beginning of the pandemic when the federal government kind of came out with this plan, the 15-day campaign to slow the spread of Covid-19. People felt like there was a leader in charge that kind of had, you know, was thinking about their public – their health, and had a plan. But then, after that kind of subsided, the death of George Floyd, his numbers plummeted. But something happened in mid-July. His numbers started going back up, and now we’re back to where we started, just about, between the two candidates. It’s unclear to me if what’s happening with the protests that have, many of them have become violent with the looting and the violence. That didn’t seem to affect voters right away, but they seem to be affecting how they’re feeling right now. So, I think there’s a lot of uncertainty going into this election. FiveThirtyEight had, I think, a 30% chance for Trump winning in 2016. That seemed pretty low. That’s actually where we are right now, about 30% according to the FiveThirtyEight model. So, I think the best prediction is we are uncertain, and we don’t know what’s going to happen.

Caleb O. Brown: All right, on a personal note, I would like to say that I’ve got 100 bucks riding on this election. It is two bets of $50 and I have taken both sides of the election, so I don’t stand to gain or lose financially, personally, either way. Thank you, Jonathan, Henry, and Emily for speaking with me today in these unusual circumstances. It is, of course, the purpose of Sphere to cultivate and demonstrate civil dialogue. You can visit our website ProjectSphere.org and we’ll talk to you again next time.