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The White House Transcript Is Missing the Most Explosive Part of the Trump–Putin Press Conference

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It was perhaps the most explosive exchange in an incendiary press conference. Russian President Vladimir Putin appearing to frankly admit to a motive for, and maybe even to the act of, meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, despite repeatedly denying Russian interference in American politics during the rest of his appearance with Donald Trump in Finland on Monday.

But the exchange doesn’t appear in full in the White House’s live-stream or transcript of the press conference, and it’s missing entirely from the Kremlin’s transcript of the event. The White House did not immediately provide an explanation for the discrepancy.

Understanding what Putin said depends on what you watch or where you look. If you watch the video of the news conference provided by the Russian government, or by news outlets such as PBS and the Associated Press, you will hear the Reuters reporter Jeff Mason ask a bombshell of a question: “President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?”

Putin then responds with a bombshell of an answer, according to the English translation of his remarks that was broadcast during the press conference: “Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.–Russia relationship back to normal.”

But recordings of the exchange were muddled for two reasons. First, the English translation of Putin’s previous response was concluding as Mason began to speak. Second, the microphone seemed to pick up Mason’s question halfway through—making the latter half of it easier to hear. (Mason told me that he had held onto the microphone even though an official had tried to pull it away so that he could ask Putin a follow-up question. “I don’t know if they turned the sound off during the time when each of the presidents were speaking, or if it got flipped on and off. I certainly didn’t touch anything.”)

Technical difficulties aside, there’s further ambiguity. It’s unclear whether Putin said “Yes, I did” in reference to the question of whether he wanted Trump to win the 2016 presidential race, or in response to the question about whether he directed Russian officials to help Trump win. “You could interpret that to mean he’s answering ‘yes’ to both,” Mason told me, but “looking at it critically, he spent a good chunk of that press conference, just like President Trump did, denying any collusion. So I think it’s likely that when he said ‘Yes, I did,’ that he was just responding to the first part of my question and perhaps didn’t hear the second part.”

But if you watch the White House live-stream of the press conference or look at the transcript published by the White House, the first half of Mason’s question is not there. Without it, the meaning of the exchange is substantially different.

Compare this transcript, of what actually happened, to the White House’s version. Here is the record of what took place, starting with the last part of Putin’s comments before Mason’s questions. Putin is describing his willingness to assist with Robert Mueller’s probe (bolding is mine):

Vladimir Putin: That could be a first step, and we can also extend it. Options abound, and they all can be found in an appropriate legal framework.

Jeff Mason: President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?

Putin: Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.–Russia relationship back to normal.

And here’s the key section from the White House transcript, which makes it seem as though Putin is still talking about the Mueller probe:  

PRESIDENT PUTIN: That could be a first step, and we can also extend it. Options abound, and they all can be found in an appropriate legal framework.

Q: And did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?

PRESIDENT PUTIN:  Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.–Russia relationship back to normal.

Another strange wrinkle comes from the Russian government’s English-language transcript of the press conference. In contrast to its footage of the press conference, which features what really happened, the transcript does not include any piece of that key exchange.

Transcripts published by the Federal News Service and Bloomberg Government mirror the White House transcript, while NPR’s contains the full exchange. Confusing matters further, C-SPAN’s footage contains Mason’s full question but only the second half of Putin’s answer.

The varying accounts of the same remarks highlight the profound confusion that Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have generated in the past 24 hours. The discrepancies in the accounts of what was said also underscore the extent to which the Trump presidency has challenged a common understanding of reality. Even if the omission was accidental, it appears suspicious at a moment marked by the president’s repeated claims that legitimate news reports are “fake.”

In an attempt to walk back other comments he made at the press conference, Trump said on Tuesday that he believed he had made himself “very clear,” but then changed his mind after reviewing the transcript and footage of the press conference. Referring to his remarks about election meddling, he walked back an extraordinary comment.

On Monday, Trump said “I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia that interfered with the election. On Tuesday, he clarified that he had meant to say: “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.” One small word, one huge difference.

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JimB
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Trump's Remarkable Attempt to Walk Back His Russia Comments

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Updated at 4:01 p.m. ET

Facing one of the biggest controversies of his tumultuous presidency, Donald Trump on Tuesday tried to clean up his remarks during a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday.

Contradicting his prior comments, Trump said he accepts, with caveats, the American conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. After saying in Helsinki that he saw no reason why Russia would have been behind the hacking, he claimed Tuesday afternoon that he intended to say he saw no reason why Russia wouldn’t be the culprit. But he also insisted that relations between the United States and Russia are improving, and reiterated his claim that there was no collusion between his campaign and Russians.

Trump’s comments Tuesday were so different as to make it seem like they came from two different people. On point after point, Trump contradicted not only his remarks on Monday, but months of previous ones. These are not simple corrections of minor details. Faced with two such different Trumps, voters are left with no idea what the president really thinks or believes.

“I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that meddling took place,” Trump told reporters in brief remarks before a meeting with members of Congress. Yet he immediately contradicted both his own statement and that community’s findings, saying, “Could have been other people also. There’s a lot of people out there.”

Trump’s addition that there could have been other culprits appeared to be an ad-lib. The president toggled between reading from prepared remarks and speaking off the cuff.

The president claimed he only recognized his error on Russia’s involvement when he returned home and read the transcript of his press conference. During the Q&A, he said: “My people came to me, [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats came to me and others, and they said, ‘I think it is Russia.’ I have President Putin, he just said it is not Russia. I will say this—I do not see any reason why it would be.”

That was an inadvertent mistake, Trump claimed Tuesday: “In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word would instead of wouldn’t,” Trump said. “The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t or why it wouldn’t be Russia.’”

But while Trump portrayed this as merely “clarifying”—rather than wholly reversing—what he said on Monday, his new position still stands at odds with that of the U.S. intelligence community, which has offered not just educated guesses but extensive evidence of Russian involvement.

Despite Trump’s statements that there was no collusion, there exists a great deal of publicly available evidence of behavior that could constitute collusion. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has not yet reported what he has found on the matter.

Nonetheless, by acknowledging interference while denying collusion, the president made a distinction he has usually refused to make. Apparently fearing that any acknowledgment of Russian meddling would delegitimize his victory, he has mostly declined to speak about the interference. Relatedly, he has not focused on American election security in the present, even as Coats and other officials have warned that the national voting infrastructure is vulnerable. On Tuesday, however, Trump vowed to protect voting systems. He did not revisit Putin’s offer, which he complimented on Monday, to have Russian intelligence agents assist in investigating the 2016 election.

“My administration has and will move aggressively to repeal any efforts and repel,” he said. “We will stop it. We will repel it. Any efforts to interfere in our elections. We’re doing everything in our power to prevent Russian interference in 2018, and we have a lot of power.”

While Trump’s acknowledgment of Russian interference is a 180-degree reversal from Monday, he has vacillated repeatedly about the issue over the past two years. As I wrote last summer, the president seems to deploy these frequent changes of position to muddy the waters. During the campaign, he disputed attributions of interference to Russia. In his only press conference between the election and his inauguration, he said he blamed Russia, but then backed off. During a summer 2017 trip to Europe, he said it could have been Russia or someone else: “Nobody really knows. Nobody really knows for sure.” After meeting with Putin later on the same trip, Trump seemed to take the Russian president at his word, noting that he had denied any Russian role. He made a similar reversal after speaking to Putin in Vietnam in November.

Because Trump says different things to different audiences, and sometimes different things to the same audience, it’s impossible to know what he really believes about Russian meddling. This is not the only example where he has offered conflicting statements. Following violence after a white-supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer, Trump reversed himself several times. The result is a president whose true position is often not discernible.

On Tuesday, he defended the concept of diplomatic relations with the Kremlin at length. “I understand there are many disagreements between our countries,” Trump said. “I also understand the dialogue with Russia. Dialogue is a very important thing and it’s a very good thing. If we get along with them, great.” But this is a straw man. There are few voices in American politics saying that the U.S. should simply break ties with Russia. Critics complain that Trump is playing into Putin’s hands in his manner of engagement.

And Trump’s cleanup effort on Tuesday exemplifies that. It may achieve what he wanted in the short term and domestically. By reversing himself, he offers his Republican allies enough cover to say that the president had recognized his error, quieting the fire coming from his own party. But the damage is already done: Trump handed the Russian president a win simply by appearing beside him in Helsinki. He made that win even bigger by not pressing Putin about Russian interference and by accepting Putin’s denials. Trump’s reversal on Tuesday only serves to make the president look weak, and to sow more confusion in American politics—just as the Kremlin wants.

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JimB
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Doctors fear urgent care centers are wildly overusing antibiotics—for profit

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Enlarge / Here, have some antibiotics. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

Popular urgent care centers may be the biggest—and most overlooked—culprits in the dangerous overuse of antibiotics in clinics, according to a new analysis in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Based on insurance claims from patients with employee-sponsored coverage, researchers estimated that about 46 percent of patients who visited urgent care centers in 2014 for conditions that cannot be treated with antibiotics—such as a common cold that’s caused by a virus—left with useless antibiotic prescriptions that target bacterial infections. That rate of inappropriate antibiotic use is almost double the rate the researchers saw in emergency departments (25 percent) and almost triple the rate seen in traditional medical offices (17 percent).

The authors of the analysis—a team of researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the University of Utah, and the Pew Charitable Trusts—concluded that interventions for urgent care centers are “urgently needed.”

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JimB
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Trump’s Weak Defense of His Meeting With Putin

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Even many Republicans who normally support or silently abide Donald Trump criticized the president Monday after his press conference with Vladimir Putin.

The Associated Press reporter Jonathan Lemire prompted the most controversial exchange by asking, “Just now President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question, sir, is who do you believe? My second question is would you now, with the whole world watching, tell President Putin—would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you warn him to never do it again?”

President Trump responded, in part:

All I can do is ask the question. My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others and said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server. But I have confidence in both parties. I really believe that this will probably go on for a while, but I don’t think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server … So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. And what he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators, with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer. Okay, thank you.

As my colleague James Fallows quickly observed:

At every step, he was advancing the line that Putin hoped he would advance, and the line that the American intelligence, defense, and law-enforcement agencies most dreaded … Trump’s answers were indistinguishable from Putin’s, starting with the fundamental claim that Putin’s assurances about interference in U.S. democracy (“He was incredibly strong and confident in his denial”) deserved belief over those of his own Department of Justice (“I think the probe is a disaster for our country”).

Amid a bipartisan outcry from observers making similar points, with Senator John McCain going so far as to declare the summit “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory,” Trump took to Twitter, his crutch, to defend himself, writing: “As I said today and many times before, ‘I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people.’ However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past – as the world’s two largest nuclear powers, we must get along! #HELSINKI 2018.”

No one urged exclusive focus on the past. That Trump has great confidence in the intelligence community is directly contradicted by the regularity with which he undercuts their conclusions. And the rest of his defense makes even less sense.

Yes, there are times when countries ought to put bygone transgressions behind them. And yes, nuclear powers have a special responsibility to build a peaceful future. Indeed, the U.S. ought to build that sort of future with Russia.

But Russian interference in the 2016 election is not an issue that Trump can simply consign to the past, and not only because the press, the public, his partisan adversaries, and the nature of Robert Mueller’s probe will not allow it. Recent Russian election interference is an inescapable part of America’s future; the United States will hold another high-stakes election later this year. Then, in 2020, it will hold another presidential election. And every two years after that, there will be more elections in this republic, so long as we can keep it. How secure would those elections be if we only looked forward?

The republic would face a crisis if powerful foreign nations were permitted to interfere in those elections with impunity, or if most citizens began to doubt the integrity of elections because the government didn’t seem to care about past interference.

That is why patriotic members of Congress, intelligence agencies, an adversarial press, a civil society that cares about protecting democracy, and techies opposed to foreign intelligence services manipulating U.S. elections will all be scrutinizing the 2018 midterms for evidence of interference by Russia or others. The competitive nature of U.S. elections further guarantees that partisans on the losing side will cry foul if there is persuasive evidence of foreign interference.

Complicating matters further, false or exaggerated claims of foreign interference could also undermine American democracy by causing the public to wrongly turn on its institutions. A president fit for the office he holds would take every practical measure to reassure the public that Republicans and Democrats alike know interference to a degree that significantly affects or undermines an election’s results is possible—and that they’re united in trying to stop it.

Our actual president undermines that faith daily and thereby weakens the country. If he believes that he can render controversy over 2016 moot by simply urging that our two countries must “build a brighter future,” he is a fool. As a beneficiary of Russian interference, he can achieve that sort of reconciliation least of anyone.

That Russian interference remains a feature of American relations with that country is inevitable. Managing the issue without undermining our future elections or risking a needless, ruinous conflict with a great power requires deftly confronting the matter directly, in a manner that decreases the odds of a repeat performance and does not involve credulously taking the word of a lying adversary as though it carries any credibility, or indulging fantasies that the matter will go away.

Trump shows every sign of being incapable of that vital task. Unless Republicans impeach the incompetent head of state they elected, the United States is unlikely to have a president capable of the feat until at least January 2021.

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JimB
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Best tricks to fix YouTube's most annoying features

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YouTube is a simple service with a lot of not-so-simple problems to it.

It's easy for YouTube to frustrate users because beneath the challenge videos and endless comment sections are a lot of features that can really make or break your experience. You thought you turned off Autoplay, but it still seems to be turned on when you're showing your family videos on the TV. You get notifications when people across the house are casting. Why? And more importantly, how do you end these annoyances? Here's how.

How to control and stop someone casting from YouTube

By default, when someone casts content from YouTube (or most other apps) to a Chromecast, everyone else connected to the same router as at that Chromecast will receive a notification that allows them to control that content as its being cast. This can be useful if you need to pause or stop someone casting YouTube to a TV, as when a family member leaves the room without stopping their cast or when a family member gets a call and needs to pause the video while their phone is already in use.

  1. Open your notification shade by swiping down from the top of your screen.
  2. Tap the down arrow next to Chromecast name to reveal the full controls if the notification is not already expanded.
  3. There are five controls available on this notification:
    • To pause the video, tap Pause.
    • To turn off the volume tap Mute.
    • To stop the video, tap Stop.
    • To open the Google Home app and rewind or fast forward within the song, tap a blank space in the Google Cast notification.
  4. To stop these notifications from popping up again, tap the settings gear.
  5. Tap Media controls for Cast devices to toggle these notifications off on this device.

It's worth noting that this toggle does not apply to all devices on your account. You have to turn it off on every device you don't want them showing up on.

How to keep YouTube from Autoplaying when casting

You'd think that if you don't want Autoplay while you're watching on your phone, you wouldn't want it while you're casting, either, right? Well, apparently YouTube doesn't see it that way, because toggling off everything in the Autoplay section of YouTube's settings doesn't turn off Autoplay while casting. In fact, the only way to change this setting is to change it while you're casting something, so let's go ahead and cast something and turn it off now so it doesn't bite us while we're watching something later on!

  1. Open YouTube.
  2. Tap the Google Cast icon in the top bar.
  3. If there is more than one Chromecast on your current Wi-Fi, tap the Chromecast you want to cast to.
  4. Tap a video.

  5. Tap Play.
  6. Tap Queue at the bottom of the video playback screen.
  7. Tap Autoplay is on to toggle it off.

You can now stop casting your video and go about your business, content that YouTube won't run rampant on you while cast.

How to quickly skip forward or backward in a YouTube video

Ever watch a video, then someone walks in and makes you miss the best part? Well, we can't stop the intrusions, but we can quickly rewind and skip ahead in a YouTube video.

  • To rewind a few seconds, double-tap the left side of the video screen away from the visible controls.
  • To skip ahead a few seconds, double-tap the right side of the video screen away from the visible controls.

You can compound the initial double-tap to skip further and further. If you want to, you can also shift the amount of time a single double-tap will skip.

How to change how far your double-tap to seek goes

Some people want a double-tap to skip longer periods so that they don't have to double-tap quite so many times, while some people want to double-tap to skip shorter periods to allow for more precision seeking. Luckily, YouTube caters to both crowds, and here's how to set your double-tap to seek value:

  1. Open YouTube.
  2. Tap your avatar in the top right corner.
  3. Tap Settings.

  4. Tap General.
  5. Tap Double-tap to seek.
  6. Select the increment you prefer to seek at.

How to disable picture-in-picture

Picture-in-picture used to be reserved for YouTube Premium subscribers, but the feature has since rolled out to free users as well, and while it is a useful feature for many, picture-in-picture can be a downright pain sometimes. Thankfully, it can be disabled quite easily, as can background playback if that's a YouTube Premium feature you'd like to turn off.

How to disable picture-in-picture in YouTube

Questions?

Let us know in the comments below!

Updated July 2018: We've expanded this guide to include how to turn off picture-in picture since it's been added to non-Premium accounts.

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Voter Suppression Is Warping Democracy

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Voter suppression almost certainly helped Donald Trump win the presidency. Multiple academic studies and court rulings indicate that racially biased election laws, such as voter-ID legislation in places like Wisconsin, favored Republican candidates in 2016. Like most other elections in American history, this one wasn’t a fair fight.

A new poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and The Atlantic has uncovered evidence of deep structural barriers to the ballot for black and Latino voters, specifically in the 2016 election. More than that, the survey finds that the deep wounds of Jim Crow endure, leaving America’s democratic promise unfulfilled.

The real extent of voter suppression in the United States is contested. As was the case for poll taxes and literacy tests long ago, restrictive election laws are often, on their face, racially neutral, giving them a sheen of legitimacy. But the new data from PRRI and The Atlantic suggest that the outcomes of these laws are in no way racially neutral. The poll, conducted in June, surveyed Americans about their experiences with voting, their assessments of the country’s political system, and their interfaces with civics. The results, especially when analyzed by race, are troublesome. They indicate that voter suppression is commonplace, and that voting is routinely harder for people of color than for their white counterparts.

The new data support perhaps the worst-case scenario offered by opponents of restrictive voting laws. Nine percent of black respondents and 9 percent of Hispanic respondents indicated that, in the last election, they (or someone in their household) were told that they lacked the proper identification to vote. Just 3 percent of whites said the same. Ten percent of black respondents and 11 percent of Hispanic respondents reported that they were incorrectly told that they weren’t listed on voter rolls, as opposed to 5 percent of white respondents. In all, across just about every issue identified as a common barrier to voting, black and Hispanic respondents were twice as likely, or more, to have experienced those barriers as white respondents.

The numbers not only suggest that policies such as voter-ID requirements and automatic voter purges do, indeed, have strong racial and ethnic biases, but also that there are more subtle barriers for people of color that compound the effects of these laws. Fifteen percent of black respondents and 14 percent of Hispanic respondents said that they had trouble finding polling places on Election Day, versus 5 percent of whites. This finding squares with research indicating that frequent changes to polling-site locations hurt minority voters more. Additionally, more than one in 10 blacks and Hispanics missed the registration deadline to vote in 2016, as opposed to just 3 percent of whites. And black and Hispanic respondents were twice as likely as white respondents to have been unable to get time off work for voting.

There are informal roadblocks as well. Under the specter of alleged voter fraud by noncitizens—which was based more on anti-immigrant sentiment than any data or other evidence—and amid increasingly incendiary rhetoric about Latinos, Hispanic voters found 2016 especially difficult. “Roughly one in 10 Hispanics said that the last time they or someone in their household tried to vote, they were bothered at the polls,” Dan Cox, the research director at PRRI, told me. “If you think about the idea of a stolen election, it fits easily into this broader narrative of cultural threat, where perceived outsiders are taking something away from people who were already there.”

These results add credence to what many critics of restrictive voting laws have long suspected. First, voter-ID laws and other, similar statutes aren’t passed in a vacuum, but rather in a country where people of color are significantly less likely to be able to meet the new requirements. Whether intended to discriminate or not, these laws discriminate in effect, and while there is no evidence that they’ve averted any kind of fraud, there is plenty of data detailing just how they’ve created Republican advantages. In that way, Trump’s chances in 2016 may have turned not only on the approval or disapproval of white voters, but also on how effectively state laws, access issues, and social penalties conspired to keep black and Hispanic voters away from polling places.

This is the reality that drives minority fears of a country in regression. The survey’s respondents, as a whole, were actually more likely than those of any PRRI sample over the past seven years to report that things in the country are going in the right direction. But 86 percent of black respondents and 74 percent of Hispanic respondents believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. That finding is supported by data from other pollsters that suggest that the vast majority of black people are facing levels of anxiety and fear about the future that are unprecedented in recent memory.

More troublesome still, previous data from 2016 show that there are good reasons for those fears. In the same year that a federal court decried North Carolina’s voter-ID laws as deliberately discriminatory machinations that “target African Americans with almost surgical precision,” similar laws—which require identification at the ballot box that low-income, black, and Latino voters are less likely than middle-class whites to have—changed electoral outcomes in other states. In Wisconsin, a study found that the number of Democrats who didn’t vote because they lacked proper ID exceeded Trump’s margin of victory, and that the biggest decreases in turnout were in black neighborhoods, a clear signal that race-based voter suppression was in play. Republican officials in the state said that the voter-ID law might have been powerful enough to change the outcome of the presidential election in Wisconsin.

For black voters especially, the prospect of voter suppression fueling minority disenfranchisement nationwide isn’t an idea that takes much imagination. Accordingly, 68 percent of black respondents in the PRRI poll think that disenfranchisement is a major problem, and a similar proportion believe that disenfranchisement is the biggest electoral problem in America.

“When you want to look at the issue where perhaps there is the largest difference by race and ethnicity when it comes to voting and the election system [it’s] on this question of disenfranchisement,” Cox said. “Only 27 percent of white Americans say that eligible voters being denied the right to vote is a major problem today, and you have really strong majorities of black and Hispanic Americans—six in 10, roughly—saying that it is a major concern.”

As Cox noted, unlike the major divides on most survey questions between whites with and without college degrees, these two groups responded pretty much identically when it came to their low prioritization of disenfranchisement. That suggests that concern about disenfranchisement arises from experience, not necessarily from party or ideological affiliation.

Reflecting the distribution of the greater population, black and Hispanic respondents were most likely to live in the American South. Their voting patterns and concerns were thus likely to be affected by the region’s history of disenfranchisement, as well as its newer voting laws and barriers. For example, 37 percent of white respondents reported that their parents had taken them to a voting booth when they were children, versus 24 percent of black respondents and 18 percent of Hispanics. In a region where, because of Jim Crow, many middle-aged or older people of color may not have had a parent who was even eligible to vote during their childhood, voting simply isn’t as established an intergenerational civic institution as it is in white communities—even as it faces new threats today.

In the case of the country’s most marginalized voters, past and present conspire. It’s often been reported that cultural and economic anxieties drove white voters to Trump, and that their gravitation has also corresponded with a weakening of democratic norms. But black and Hispanic voters are even more anxious and desperate, and that’s at least in part because democratic norms—if this trial run of racially inclusive democracy can even be referred to as a “norm”—are crumbling in their hands. Blows to the hard-won victory of the franchise already helped turn the tables in one election. But black and Hispanic voters are worried just as much about the elections to come.

This project is supported by grants from the Joyce, Kresge, and McKnight Foundations.

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