Two days later

We’re two days out from Election Day, and much of the media’s attention has shifted to other things — another mass shooting in Southern California, the firing of the attorney general, and what seems to be a deliberate presidential ploy to change the conversation away from Democrats winning the midterms. (Which, if you haven’t been paying close attention — they keep doing. The small wave has proved itself much bigger than people thought when they went to bed on Tuesday night). But you know what I’m still thinking about? The midterms. 

This newsletter was missing in action for a few weeks as I worked like a dog (I don’t know where that phrase comes from; my dog doesn’t work at all, she just takes a lot of naps on the couch) to publish two big pre-election features (one, here, on voter suppression on the Navajo Reservation; another on what it’s like to run against a body slammer in Montana) and then heading to Texas for seven days following the Beto campaign, traveling pretty much nonstop. Today, I’m taking three planes from El Paso, Texas back home to Missoula, Montana — after nine different hotel rooms, 2200 miles on the rental car, and wearing every single thing in my suitcase. Pretty much everyone I talked to involved with the Beto campaign acknowledged that the race was gonna be a long shot. Most could hardly talk about it — they didn’t want to curse anything, either about Beto or the midterms. They’d prepared themselves for the probability of a loss, but were holding onto a small amount of hope: maybe, all the work he’d done, and all the work they’d done to support him, would result in an actual win. 

Beto didn’t win. But he did lose by only around 250,000 votes. He received 4.5 million votes. In a so-called “red state,” that’s not just huge. That’s paradigm-shifting. So that’s what I wrote about the day after the election, putting the two point race in the context of all the small, noxious, but deeply effective ways in which Texas has made it difficult to register and to vote. The game is strongly rigged against Democrats — and yet they nearly won anyway. Which is precisely why so many Texas Democrats looked what happened on Tuesday very differently than a lot of national pundits: It wasn’t enough to win. But it was so much.  

I hope you’ll read that piece, as well as the one I wrote the day before Election Day, one the thousands of women powering the Beto campaign. (I also asked them, and some men, why there were so few men, which……….). I’m going to spend the next few weeks/months recharging, reading some books, sleeping nine hours a night, and just generally taking a step back to think more deeply about this moment and what to cover next. If you have suggestions, I’d love to hear them. 

Until then, a few recommendations. 

With all that time spent in the car, I listened to a billion podcasts. The ones I loved/was most compelled by: 

  • This episode of The Daily on evangelical women who’ve moved away from Trump and toward Democratic candidates might sound like the makings for something you’ve heard before. But the 10-minute conversation between the daughter her dad at the end is going to stick with me for a very long time. 

  • This episode of On the Media on the makings of anti-Semitism is just excellent, especially when paired with this one, on similar themes, from The Daily. I thought I knew a lot about the roots of anti-Semitism, but these both really shifted my understanding. 

  • Episodes of 99% Invisible that focus on “articles of interest”: jeans, Hawaiian shirts, plaid, kids clothes. Oh, 99I eps on Oklahoma City and Illustrating Dinosaurs

  • My pal McKay Coppins on Fresh Air talking about the shift to weaponized, blow-dried, battering ram politics under Gingrich 

  • Rebecca Traister on Longform 

  • And the episode that I’m going to be thinking about the most: a really provocative and honest conversation between Ezra Klein and Jay Rosen on the media’s role (and culpability) in our currently politically inflamed moment

As always, if you know someone who’d enjoy this sort of thing in their inbox every week or so, forward it their way. You can subscribe here (which is also where you can find the archives). You can follow me & my reporting journeys on Instagram here (and Three Leg Peggy’s here). And I always love feedback, especially on recommendations you read/listened to and loved — just reply to this email.