Oct 26, 2020

Trump or Biden? The endorsements.

Trump or Biden? The endorsements.

We examine the cases being made for the next president.

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, ad-free, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum — then “my take.” You can read Tangle for free or subscribe for Friday editions, and you can reach me anytime by replying to this email. If someone sent you this email, they’re asking you to sign up. You can do that by clicking here.

Today’s read: 15 minutes.

I’m covering the endorsements for Donald Trump and Joe Biden. We’re skipping the reader question to give this some extra space today.

Trump and Biden at the final presidential debate. Screenshot: C-SPAN.


In Friday’s subscriber-only edition recapping the debate, I wrote this in the numbers’ section: “51 million. The number of Americans who have already voted in the 2016 election." Of course, this should have said “the number of Americans who have already voted in the 2020 election.” It was a tiny mistake, but one worth acknowledging (and one that was spotted by a dozen eagle-eyed readers).

This is the 18th Tangle correction in its 61-week existence and the first correction since October 5th. I track corrections in an effort to be transparent and plan to stop counting when the number becomes embarrassing.

Reader feedback.

I received a ton of reader feedback to last Thursday’s edition about Joe Biden’s tax plan — especially the “my take” section about Tangle. After reading through the feedback and re-reading the newsletter, I think it became clear that I reached a bit in trying to personalize this issue and tie it to Tangle. As a result, there were a few points I should have made that I didn’t — and some perspectives worth adding to balance my take.

1) I had one major oversight in discussing the corporate tax rate, which is that I failed to mention corporations are only taxed on profit. When a reader pointed this out, I was genuinely shocked that I hadn’t noted that — and read through the newsletter twice looking to prove them wrong, certain that I had included it somewhere. It’s an important piece of context that shouldn’t have been left out, and it undercuts some of the arguments I made about how higher taxes could impact a business like Tangle.

2) I also should have done a better job adding historical context to the current corporate tax rate, so here is that context: Trump cut the corporate tax rate to 21%. Between 1909 and 2020, the average corporate tax rate was 32.48%, and in 2016 it was 35%. Biden’s proposal is to raise it from 21% to 28%, which still leaves it well below the average it was at pre-Trump.

3) Finally, one reader contested this sentence I wrote: “This is because corporate tax increases often lead corporations to slow wage growth or cut wages.” As they rightly pointed out, this is a strongly contested notion and — if anything — economists are beginning to move toward the opposite conclusion (that increasing corporate taxes often accelerates wage growth). Josh Bivens makes this case strongly in an EPI article here.

Finally, a counterargument to my own, from Matt in Easton, PA: “Speaking as a small business operator, who manages a corporate bottom line; raising taxes actually encourages spending and investment because nearly all companies aren't taxed on revenue, but profit. You don't want to be sitting on extra money at the end of the year just to get taxed on it. So you're incentivized to reinvest. So corporations spend even more, reinvesting in capital improvements, bonuses for workers, etc. While reducing it encourages saving more in retained earnings, dividends etc. Trickle-down economics is a sham that needs to be identified and eliminated in all of its forms.”

Quick hits.

  1. Johns Hopkins reported more than 83,000 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, the highest number of new cases in a single day since the pandemic began. 8.6 million Americans have tested positive for COVID-19 and over 225,000 have died. 41,000 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, up from 29,000 at the beginning of October. The pandemic-high for hospitalizations was 59,940 on April 15th, according to the COVID tracking project.
  2. Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, as did four other people in Pence’s office. Pence, the head of the coronavirus task force, has tested negative for coronavirus twice since then and says he plans to stay on the campaign trail. “We’re not going to control the pandemic,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told CNN. “We are gonna control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas.”
  3. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court says it won’t allow election officials to reject mail-in ballots that have mismatching voter signatures. Voting rights activists and Democrats cheered the decision. In 2016, mismatching signatures were the top reason that mail-in ballots were rejected.
  4. President Trump privately told donors that it’s going to be “very tough” for the GOP to hold the Senate in a call that was leaked to The Washington Post. “I think the Senate is tough actually. The Senate is very tough,” Trump said. “There are a couple senators I can’t really get involved in. I just can’t do it. You lose your soul if you do. I can’t help some of them. I don’t want to help some of them.”
  5. The U.S. Senate is primed to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court today. Barrett was moved forward in a procedural vote yesterday and the final confirmation vote is this afternoon.
  6. BONUS: Israel and Sudan announced formalized diplomatic relations on Friday. Sudan is now the fifth Arab nation to announce formal ties with Israel and the third in the last two months. As a result, President Trump has removed Sudan from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism and unblocked economic aid.

What D.C. is talking about.

The cases for Trump and Biden. We’re eight days from the election and nearly 60 million people have already voted, more than the entire early vote total from 2016. Still, I wanted to give some space to share endorsements for both Trump and Biden from a few major news outlets and popular writers across the country. These are either some of the most popular endorsements or ones I think are the most compelling arguments for your vote.

Every election season, most newspapers in the country decide on a set of endorsements. In 2016, just two of the nation’s 100 largest papers endorsed Trump. 57 endorsed Clinton, four made anti-Trump endorsements and four endorsed Gary Johnson. The Wall Street Journal editorial board, one of the most influential conservative voices in America, hasn’t endorsed a president since 1928. In 2016, it didn’t endorse Trump either, writing “if we didn’t endorse Ronald Reagan we aren’t about to revive the practice for Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Trump.” Some have speculated it might step into the fray this year. I doubt it.

McClatchy, which owns 30 local papers in the country, has instructed its newsrooms not to endorse a candidate unless they get to interview both Biden and Trump. Since many papers haven’t had that privilege, there have been fewer endorsements on either side this year.

However, there have also been some firsts: Both USA Today and Scientific American endorsed a candidate for the first time ever, each throwing their weight behind Joe Biden. At the same time, many political writers have come to bat for Trump over the last few weeks, and The New York Post editorial board endorsed him this morning.

It’s important to understand how these endorsements work: each newspaper in America is typically divided into two segments: the “news” team and the “editorial” team. We’ve seen this divide highlighted recently, as when the Wall Street Journal news team covered the Hunter Biden story in a vastly different manner than the WSJ editorial team did. The news side is a paper’s attempt to be grounded in facts, evidence and balance (much like Tangle’s “What D.C. is talking about” section). The editorial side is a paper’s attempt to offer opinion, speculation and argument — though many papers have been criticized for hyper biased, outrage-inducing opinion pages (hence my inspiration for creating Tangle).

In the case of endorsements, most editorial boards employ a democratic process regarding who they want to throw their weight behind. For instance, today you’ll see The New York Times editorial board’s endorsement of Joe Biden. That doesn’t mean every member of the editorial board at The Times wants Joe Biden (they don’t), nor does it mean all their reporters are liberal (certainly some are, but they have nothing to do with the editorial team), it just means that most of the editorial side of the paper believes Biden would be a better president.

I’ve scoured the internet for some of the stronger endorsements and compiled them below.

What the left is saying.

To nobody’s surprise, the left is throwing its endorsement weight behind Joe Biden.

The New York Times editorial board said Biden’s promise to “restore the soul of the nation” is a reminder that “the country is weaker, angrier, less hopeful and more divided than it was four years ago… In the midst of unrelenting chaos, Mr. Biden is offering an anxious, exhausted nation something beyond policy or ideology.”

“His team has put together a bold agenda aimed at tackling some of America’s most pressing problems,” the board wrote. “The former vice president is committed to working toward universal health care through measures such as adding a public option to the Affordable Care Act — which he played a significant role in passing — lowering the age for Medicare eligibility to 60 years old and cutting the cost of prescription drugs. He recognizes the fateful threat of climate change and has put forward an ambitious, $2 trillion plan to slash carbon emissions, invest in a green economy and combat environmental racism. Mr. Biden will not be morphing into an ideological maximalist any time soon, but he has acknowledged that the current trifecta of crises — a lethal pandemic, an economic meltdown and racial unrest — calls for an expanded governing vision.”

“In order to expel the worst president of modern times, many voters might be willing to vote for almost anybody,” The Washington Post editorial board wrote. “Fortunately, to oust President Trump in 2020, voters do not have to lower their standards. The Democratic nominee, former vice president Joe Biden, is exceptionally well-qualified, by character and experience, to meet the daunting challenges that the nation will face over the coming four years…

“In place of Mr. Trump’s belittling and demonizing of opponents and allies alike, Mr. Biden offers a deep commitment to finding common ground in service to making government work for the greatest number,” the board said. “He has demonstrated that commitment in reaching across the aisle to Republicans, and also — most recently — in bringing unity to the Democratic Party without compromising his own fundamental convictions… Mr. Biden similarly has shaped an ambitious and reform-minded criminal justice agenda for today’s world. He would set minimum standards for use of force and condition federal funding on meaningful police reforms. His proposed $20 billion competitive grant program would incentivize states and localities to shift dollars from incarceration to crime prevention...

“Far from embracing socialism, Mr. Biden would better position the United States as a capitalist competitor to China. He would do so by rolling back the least defensible of Mr. Trump’s upwardly skewed tax cuts and investing more in education and research; cooperating on trade with allies, rather than spraying tariffs at South Korea, Europe and Canada; and once again making the United States a welcoming destination for the brightest scientists and potential entrepreneurs around the world.”

Bertram de Souza, a former editor at the now-defunct Vindicator newspaper in Youngstown, Ohio, endorsed Biden in The Guardian. If his paper were still around, de Souza wrote, he “would argue that Trump lied to the people of the Mahoning Valley. In July 2017, Trump hosted a rally in Youngstown, Ohio, to show his appreciation to the multitude of former Democrats – mostly white, male, blue-collar workers who have fallen victim to the new technology-based globalized economy – who crossed party lines to vote for him.”

“Trump promised to rebuild the huge steel-producing factories that once dotted the banks of the Mahoning River, and to bolster the American automobile industry that was a mainstay of the region’s economy for more than 50 years,” de Souza said. “He told those gathered not to sell their homes and not to move. He said the return of steel-making was imminent, and that he would ensure the expansion of General Motors’ massive car assembly plant in the region. Here’s what has actually happened: not one new steel mill has been built in the past four years. And, in March 2019, General Motors closed its compact car-making plant in Lordstown, eliminating 4,500 high-paying jobs. The giant automaker shrugged off the president’s threat of economic retaliation.”

What the right is saying.

With very few exceptions, the right has coalesced behind Trump again before the 2020 election.

The New York Post editorial board became one of the first national editorial boards to endorse him this morning. “We can return to the explosive job creation, rising wages and general prosperity we had before the pandemic,” the board wrote. “We can have economic freedom and opportunity, and resist cancel culture and censorship. We can put annus horribilis, 2020, behind us and make America great again, again. We can do all this — if we make the right choice on Nov. 3…

“Elections are always about the economy, but never more so than this year. So a reminder: Until the necessary shutdown to fight the coronavirus, the unemployment rate stood at 3.5 percent, the lowest in a half-century,” the board wrote. “African-American unemployment was 6.8 percent, the lowest figure since 1972. Adults out of the workforce for years found new prospects; for 17 months of Trump’s term, there were 1 million more job openings than people unemployed. That drove up salaries. For the first time in a decade, wage growth exceeded 3 percent year-over-year. It also narrowed the wealth gap. Between 2016 and 2019, real median incomes rose the most, 9 percent, for those without a high-school diploma. Real median incomes declined 2.3 percent for those with a college degree, mostly because older workers retired, according to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances.”

In National Review, Andrew McCarthy made one of the definitive cases for Trump — by writing critically about Biden — with an opening that focused on Trump’s weaknesses: “The consuming narcissism, nonstop dissembling, infantile outbursts, inability to admit error, withering attacks on well-meaning officials he entices into working for him — though Trump has been a much better president than I thought he’d be, it’s not like the leopard’s spots have faded away,” McCarthy said. “Yet this argument has always missed the point. The most compelling case for Trump has never been Trump. It has always been, and remains, Trump . . . as opposed to what?”

“Biden, too, is deeply flawed, in ways different from Trump,” McCarthy wrote. “His embarrassingly patent senescence and habitual incoherence are problems, to be sure. But in his prime, such as it was, he was never regarded as serious presidential material, despite his several attempts. Mediocrity is something he’d have to aspire to. He was a gentleman’s-C undergrad who went on to finish 76th out of 85 in his law-school class. He entered politics in a one-party state right out of law school, and there he has stayed for a half century, plagiarizing his way through as he did in school. If he has distinguished himself, it is mainly by being wrong on virtually every issue of great public consequence, often after vacillating from one side to the other. His accomplishments are nil. The defining attribute of his current campaign is to run away from a few sensible positions he used to hold. Otherwise, he would not have been viable to today’s woke Left, against which he is largely impotent.”

In USA Today, Bob Vander Plaats argued that “faith voters should stick with Trump.” Vander Plaats said when you’re voting for a candidate, you’re voting for “a vision for America, for policy positions, for the kinds of judges that will be appointed, and — more than we realize — we vote for the people who will fill out the administration and make many of the decisions that impact our lives.”

“As pointed out in the vice presidential debate, a Biden administration would replace Vice President Pence's principled leadership with Vice President Harris, rated by GovTrack.us as the ‘most liberal’ and most partisan member of the U.S. Senate,” he wrote. “At the same debate, Harris pledged she would ‘always fight’ for legal abortion, while Pence declared, ‘I don't apologize’ for being pro-life and standing for ‘the sanctity of human life.’”

“I look at the people around former Vice President Biden — Sen. Harris, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — and I just see a very different vision for America, one laden with taxes, government regulation, restricted freedoms, extremist abortion positions, and radical environmental policies,” he said. “It's true, President Trump seldom reflects the desired fruits of the Spirit. However, President Trump listened and made his case to the faith community, kept his promises to the faith community, and surrounded himself with key leaders of the faith community… Voting for president is more than a vote for the man; it's a vote for people like [Ben] Carson, [Mike] Pence and [Mike] Pompeo. That really does make a difference, and for me, it's more than enough to vote Trump in 2020.”

My take.

My take is that it’s no use telling you who I’m voting for after the last year. More than 90% of voters have already made up their minds, and 60 million have already voted. In all the years I’ve been reporting on politics, or thinking about politics, or writing about politics, I’ve yet to find a voter who thought it was a news outlet’s job to persuade them how to vote. In fact, I’m fairly certain that presidential endorsements from newspapers like The New York Times or The New York Post will only further undermine public confidence in their work, misleading each side into thinking those endorsements are a sign of overt bias in their news coverage. At NBC News, Matt Laslo made one of the most compelling cases I’ve ever read for newsrooms not to make endorsements at all.

“Voters decide elections,” he said. “Now’s the time to focus newspapers' full energy and limited resources on providing every voter with the information that’s essential to making informed decisions. We can’t do that if millions of voters won’t ever read, let alone trust, the solid journalism flowing from the fingers of the underpaid and overly abused reporters in the field. We certainly can't do that if they won't read and won't trust fact-based reporting because a few people with six-figure salaries felt they had a civic duty to bloviate about the candidates and thereby undermine the unbiased work of the reporters whose content keeps their publication — and any well functioning democracy — afloat.”

Of course, I’m not a newspaper — and my small team, while capable, is not comparable to The New York Times.

I’m also conscious of the fact some readers are going to view this as a cop-out. You could argue that by not offering my perspective here I am undermining the promise of Tangle. When I started this newsletter, I set out on a mission to offer something other news outlets were not: diversity of opinion, a focus on reasonable and compelling arguments, a heavy dose of reader interaction and radical transparency about my own biases and mistakes. To the final point, it would seem that sharing how I plan to vote or who I think the best candidate is would be totally within the boundaries of that promise. And my response is “yes, you make a very good point.”

But my goal with Tangle is also to do something different. On top of finding common ground, avoiding clickbait and ads, and ensuring you get a diverse set of viewpoints, I’m also trying to build trust. I’m trying to bridge the chasm between the right and left in our country while positioning myself and this newsletter as something Republicans, independents, Democrats, Trumpers, woke lefties and everyone in between can look to, confident that I’ll be honest with myself and with you. Making a blanket endorsement in this election, perhaps the most contentious of all time, would only serve to alienate some of my readers and would almost certainly be used as a weapon against reasonable or compelling arguments I make in the future on an array of issues. The upside, to me, is completely non-existent.

I’m also conscious that some of my readers (on both sides) will view a “non-endorsement” as an abdication of journalistic or editorial responsibility.

Many on the left view President Trump as a corrupt racist, a fascist, and a blooming authoritarian who is a grave threat to America’s future. They view anyone unwilling to say so as part of the rot in our country. They believe the pandemic has crystallized the ways a president and a government can impact our lives in a way that very few historical events ever have, and that Trump has failed this test of leadership miserably. These readers will contend that by not coming out strongly against Trump, I’m enabling all the most dangerous things he stands for — perhaps even enabling more suffering and death in the United States.

Many on the right feel the opposite: that Trump is protecting America from the left-wing mob, from government overreach the likes of which we’ve never seen, from a bumbling old candidate who won’t be able to finish his first term, and from a group of corrupt corporate Democrats who will sell our jobs overseas the first chance they get. In their eyes, Trump has taken on the Democrats, the media, Hollywood and all the left-wing institutions that have tried to end his presidency. He’s re-centered the right’s focus on the working class. Refusing to acknowledge the fight Trump is waging is turning my back on the “people” and standing with the “establishment” — it’s handing over the keys to our freedom for generations to come.

My response to both of these arguments is the same: for more than a year, I’ve written this newsletter four or five times a week, and with every single edition I have made myself vulnerable by sharing my perspective on the pressing issues of the day. Very few writers — maybe none — have shared their opinion publicly as many times in the last year as I have. Heather Cox Richardson is the only other political writer I know of who produces a daily newsletter that includes their own opinion, and even hers — though overtly liberal — is steeped more in history than her own opinion. I’ve produced these “takes” in the manner I find most productive for accuracy: on a granular, individual issue basis. If you’re curious how I feel about something, my past writing all exists in the Tangle archive. By now, most of you have had a heavy dose of “my take.” That won’t change anytime soon, and I’m sure you can draw your own conclusions about who I’ll be voting for in November.

What I will say is that I do endorse voting. Vehemently. I endorse participating. I endorse using your brain and paying attention and researching not just Biden and Trump, but the down-ballot candidates in your state and district, as well as the thousands of ballot initiatives that are up for a vote all across the country this year. America has a shameful record when it comes to fulfilling our civic duty and participating in democracy, and given what has been sacrificed across our history to give us all the right to choose our leaders, I hope you’ll all participate this year. Just don’t vote blindly. If you’re voting in person, figure out what’s on the ballot before you go and spend an hour (at least) doing research. If you’re voting by mail or early, sit down with your ballot and your computer and research the candidates and topics you’ll get to vote on as you fill out your ballot.

Vote like you mean it, as if it matters, because it does. Then go tell your friends to vote, too. And keep reading Tangle.

A story that matters.

Schools across the country are flip-flopping on in-person and remote learning, sending classes, teachers, parents and kids into a tailspin of instability as they try to navigate COVID-19. The interruptions to curriculums, child care plans and schedules are hurting vulnerable students the most — as well as exhausting parents and teachers trying to keep track. There are no clear federal or state standards, so many districts have been left to design them on their own. On one hand, this gives schools the flexibility to address local needs, but it has also created confusion and mismatched expectations. At the same time, new data from New York City (and globally) has led scientists to believe schoolchildren are unlikely to fuel coronavirus surges. “The evidence is far from conclusive, and much of the research has been tarnished by flaws in data collection and analysis,” The New York Times reports. “School reopenings are very much a work in progress. Still, many experts are encouraged by the results to date.”


  • 130,000. The number of COVID-19 deaths we can avoid this winter if 95% of Americans wear face masks in public, according to a new research paper.
  • 48-45. Joe Biden’s lead over Donald Trump in Texas, according to a new Dallas Morning News poll.
  • 65 in 100. Trump’s odds of winning the state of Texas, according to the latest FiveThirtyEight model.
  • $8 million. The amount of money a single Upper West Side ZIP code in New York has donated to Joe Biden, according to a New York Times report.
  • $85.6 million. The total amount of money New York City has donated to Biden’s campaign, according to a New York Times report.
  • $486 million. The amount of money Joe Biden has raised in ZIP codes with a median household income of at least $100,000, according to a New York Times report.
  • $167 million. The amount of money Donald Trump has raised in ZIP codes with a median household income of at least $100,000, according to a New York Times report.
  • $581 million. The amount of money Joe Biden has raised in ZIP codes with a median household income less than $100,000, according to a New York Times report.
  • $565 million. The amount of money Donald Trump has raised in ZIP codes with a median household income less than $100,000, according to a New York Times report.

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Political news is broken. Nine times out of 10, I can tell you who someone is going to vote for based solely on the top three places they get their news. Our country is living in two different realities. Tangle is trying to change that by bringing multiple views, and radical transparency, to one publication. If you believe in this kind of work and want to support it, please consider forwarding this email to friends or becoming a subscriber below. For $50 a year, or just $4.16 a month, or just 14 cents a day, you can help keep Tangle ad-free and independent forever.

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Have a nice day.

Deep in the Amazon rainforest, you may now hear the quiet buzzing of a drone overhead. But this isn’t the unfortunate intrusion of unwanted technology into an otherwise pristine space. Instead, the drone is likely being flown by a member of an indigenous tribe. WWF International and indigenous rights groups have been training Andean tribes to use drones to monitor their territory and document movements of protected wildlife. With the drones, tribes have been able to take high-resolution images, video and do GPS tracking of illegal logging that leads to wildfires in the Amazon. They can also keep a close eye on intruders who harm the untouched parts of the forest. They then hand that evidence over to government officials, who have acknowledged the tribes are better equipped to monitor the forests that they know so intimately.

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