The movement to defeat Trump in 2020: The people and events that shaped the effort

Table of Contents The day afterThe ‘Hamilton’ messageThe inaugurationThe Women’s MarchThe CIA Memorial Wall speechThe…

They had mobilized for four years, from the bottom up as much as the top down, millions of Americans determined to deny President Trump a second term. And when the moment came, when Joe Biden was declared the winner of the election, they collectively exhaled with a sigh of relief. Finally, it was over.

The uprising sprouted in the hours after Trump’s surprise victory in 2016 and blossomed throughout his time in office — women and men, young and old, African Americans, Whites, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans in cities and suburbs and small towns.

Many had hoped for a sweeping repudiation of Trump, which did not materialize, but they achieved their primary goal. They stood up to the president and then defeated him in an election that revealed once again the contours of a deeply divided nation. They exuded joy and felt as though a weight suddenly had been lifted off them, although they said that much work lies ahead in healing the country.

This is the story of that movement to resist Trump, as told by those on the front lines. This oral history is based on interviews with 71 people — elected officials and political insiders, as well as community activists and ordinary citizens. The interviews were conducted during the final month of the 2020 campaign and were lightly edited for clarity.

Numerous Trump campaign officials and advisers were asked to participate. Only a smattering agreed to give on-the-record interviews.

The day after

All around the country, millions of Americans awoke to a reality they had not expected: Donald Trump was now the president-elect. For those who had expected a different outcome, the realization hit hard.

Supporters of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton watch results roll in on Nov. 8, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
Supporters of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton watch results roll in on Nov. 8, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Tania Chavez

Strategist at La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), a community union in Texas that fights for immigrant rights.

Bars in the Rio Grande Valley usually close up at 2 a.m., so we all end up leaving for the night. Even though it was that late at night, we were still kind of hopeful. Then we woke up to a completely different reality. We got to work and it was a very solemn, very gloomy day. We were crying. Staff members’ children were calling to get picked up from school because kids were telling them, “Your mom is going to get deported.” It was very traumatic.

Jessica Rogers

Jessica Rogers

Citizen activist who lives in the Denver suburbs. Rogers helped organize the first Women’s March in Denver.

Election night, we were actually down there at Cheapskates [bar in Arvada, Colo.] watching the results and I went home early, because I was like, “This is going to swing, it’s going to change, but like I just can’t watch this. I’m going to go to bed and wake up in the morning and everything is going to be fine.” I wasn’t that politically involved then … but there was still like this anger and desire to want to do something.

Juli Briskman

Juli Briskman

Virginia resident who has been a Democratic Loudoun County supervisor since 2019, representing the Algonkian District.

I went to bed comfortably and slept well, thinking that [Hillary Clinton] had won. … [Listening to the radio the next morning], I remember thinking, “That’s not right. That’s not right. Wait a minute.” You know, just listening a little bit more and hoping that there was another side to the story that I was hearing.

Chrissy Houlahan

Chrissy Houlahan

Democratic congresswoman from Pennsylvania since 2019, representing Reading and parts of suburban Philadelphia.

I live in Pennsylvania and I had done door-knocking and that sort of thing on behalf of Hillary Clinton. But I had assumed that we were going to be celebrating the election of the first woman president, and I was pretty devastated that we weren’t celebrating that and rather we were heading into what I thought was a pretty perilous choice in President Trump and that I had somehow been a part of that.

Tammy Duckworth

Tammy Duckworth

Democratic senator from Illinois since 2017. Duckworth is a retired Army National Guard lieutenant colonel and a Purple Heart recipient.

The day after the election … I was out thanking voters at the local L stations, what we call a subway in Chicago, and people were coming up to me putting their hands on my shoulders and just weeping, just weeping, mostly women. … I was consoling people, and it went on for weeks.

Smadar Belkind Gerson

Smadar Belkind Gerson

Citizen activist who lives in Englewood, Colo. and who became a grass-roots activist after the 2016 election.

The day after the election, it took everything — every ounce of energy I had — to crawl out of bed, I was so depressed. I’m not a person who tends to be depressed. It was horrible. … I joined the grass-roots stuff before Indivisible started, through a Pantsuit Nation [group]. … My husband said, “Are you crazy? You’re going to go to a meeting from people online that you never met?” I’m like, “I don’t know, I have a good feeling about this group.” We walked in and there must have been 80 people, maybe more, crammed into this house.

Jeffrey Seller

Jeffrey Seller

Theater producer who collaborated on the creation and production of the musical “Hamilton,” which won multiple Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2016.

The sickness I felt inside of me and the pain and shame I felt when my 12-year-old son said to me when I woke him up at 6:30 the next morning to go to school, “Did he win?” And I had to say, “Yes.” My next task was to say, “Oh, my God, we have a matinee [performance of ‘Hamilton’] today. How is our company going to hold it together?” So I called a meeting at the theater. … One of our cast members who’s Mexican American said she felt afraid for her safety. One of our Puerto Rican cast members said, “Well, now we know where we stand.” And then other cast members said, “So we must fight.”

Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi

House speaker since 2019 and previously served as speaker from 2007 to 2011.

The president gets elected, we’re shocked. It’s like getting kicked in the back by a mule over and over and over again.

Cecile Richards

Cecile Richards

Past president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and founder of Supermajority, which seeks to expand the power of women.

We were now facing existential threats to everything we cared about. … The next week, [we] called together a meeting. … It was really an opportunity to say: Okay, we really have to now put together a whole new game plan for a resistance.

Emotional supporters and campaign staff members surround Hillary Clinton in a packed ballroom at the New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan on Nov. 9, 2016. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Emotional supporters and campaign staff members surround Hillary Clinton in a packed ballroom at the New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan on Nov. 9, 2016. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Cameron Kasky

Cameron Kasky

A junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., during the massacre there in 2018. He and other students formed Never Again MSD, a student-led group that seeks to combat gun violence.

Look, Trump is us. Trump is America. And Trump is not the bad guy. America is. Trump is just proof that every bit of hope we had for our society failed. And now we have to restructure everything.

Alisha Hoffman-Mirilovich

Alisha Hoffman-Mirilovich

President of Action Together NEPA, a progressive advocacy group. Hoffman-Mirilovich lives in Luzerne County, Pa.

On November 13, there was a meeting at a local restaurant with a lot of people who had met on the Facebook site Pantsuit Nation that were Hillary supporters, a lot of us volunteered at the campaign at different times and a lot of people were just feeling overwhelmed, and I went to this meeting with 30 people, all but two were women.

Gina Raimondo

Gina Raimondo

Democratic governor of Rhode Island since 2015.

In the days between when he was elected and when he was inaugurated, here on the ground in Rhode Island, people that I ran into were mostly fearful. “My God, Governor, he’s going to take away our health care. He’s going to take away a woman’s right to choose. He’s going to undo the Affordable Care Act.” “Oh, Governor, I’m an undocumented immigrant. I’m so afraid I’m going to be deported.” Lots and lots of fear.

The ‘Hamilton’ message

On Nov. 18, 2016, in New York, Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended the evening performance of “Hamilton,” the hit Broadway musical that celebrates the role immigrants played in the nation’s founding. At the end of the show, Brandon Victor Dixon, who played Aaron Burr, read a statement that said, in part, “We are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights.”

Heavily armed police officers stand guard as a motorcade carrying Vice President-elect Mike Pence leaves the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York after a performance of
Heavily armed police officers stand guard as a motorcade carrying Vice President-elect Mike Pence leaves the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York after a performance of “Hamilton” on Nov. 18, 2016. (Andres Kudacki/AP)
Jeffrey Seller

Jeffrey Seller See bio arrow-right

What my heart said was, “Leave us alone.” I didn’t want to make the cast perform for him. [But] I didn’t want to say no to him, because I also knew that somewhere inside of me, I was thinking the best thing he could do is go see “Hamilton” right now. Maybe that will inspire some sort of benevolence toward people of color, toward minorities, toward those without.

I called Tommy [Kail, the show’s director] and I said, “You won’t believe this, but Pence is coming tonight. And I wrote this draft, and you’re not going to let me do this, but I thought we should read this statement.” … Tommy goes, “I think we should do it. Let’s get Lin [Manuel Miranda, the show’s creator and writer] on the phone.” Lin was in London shooting “Mary Poppins.” … Lin said, “Let’s go.” And then immediately, Lin said, “Get rid of that sentence,” and started editing. The three of us kept writing.

We thought Brandon would be an excellent spokesperson in this kind of charged environment. … I explained to him what was going on and he said: “You bet I want to do that. Absolutely.”

Thomas Kail

Thomas Kail

Theater director who collaborated on creating and directing the musical “Hamilton,” for which he won a Tony Award.

There was just a voltage in the theater that I had not felt. And there have been a lot of different events. [President Barack] Obama had come to see the show. There were opening nights. There were lots of other people that we admired who had come to see the show at various times.

Brandon Victor Dixon

Brandon Victor Dixon

Tony Award-nominated actor who has starred as Aaron Burr in the Broadway production of “Hamilton,” among other roles.

I spent showtime figuring out where [Pence] was, and then during those last sections in the show, after the duel and going into Eliza’s final passage, really clocking where he was. … I saw security moving to the exits. I saw the bright, shining shield of white hair that he has moving through the darkness. And so I began to speak, and they brought the lights up, and he actually did stop. I asked him to stop.

Jeffrey Seller

Jeffrey Seller See bio arrow-right

Brandon so respectfully said, “If you would stay for one more moment, sir, we have a statement we would like to read.” He read the statement and Pence, to his credit, stayed and listened and heard the whole statement.

Brandon Victor Dixon

Brandon Victor Dixon See bio arrow-right

The rest of our cast came onstage to really just be a powerful symbol. … If you’re going to be the head of the executive branch that’s going to champion the least of us, or the lesser part of ourselves, and then come to enjoy an evening that is created by the very thing that you seem to be denouncing, you cannot leave here without facing that fact. And you cannot leave here without facing it publicly.

Thomas Kail

Thomas Kail See bio arrow-right

I remember walking home with Jeffrey that night, just walking out into the street and not knowing how far it would reverberate. … Our hope was that people would see that what was written was actually a call for cohesion and unity. And then I started to very quickly realize that, as a series of tweets [from Trump demanding the cast and producers “immediately apologize” for being “very rude” to Pence] started to come out, that there was just going to be a very different misrepresentation that was going to be propagated.

The inauguration

On Jan. 20, 2017, Donald Trump was sworn in as the nation’s 45th president. He delivered a dark, dystopian inaugural address in which he vowed, “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”

President Trump celebrates his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
President Trump celebrates his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi See bio arrow-right

The inauguration was particularly devastating. … To hear a speech made at an inaugural address that stooped to such a low place — “carnage” in the country and the rest. It was, how can you say, disappointing.

Amy Klobuchar

Amy Klobuchar

Democratic senator from Minnesota since 2007. Klobuchar sought the 2020 presidential nomination.

The day of the inauguration, I sat in between Bernie [Sanders] and [John] McCain, and they were both, and I was, horrified by the darkness of Donald Trump’s speech. … McCain would repeat the phrases, because he was a student of history. I felt like John McCain knew what we were headed into much more than I did, because he knew him better, and he also knew what those words were historically. … He was whispering things about it to me. And so that’s why I think we were just all in shock, because you go into [an] inauguration, no matter if your candidate wins or not, [thinking] that this is a moment of unity for the nation. And Donald Trump went hard right. He went to a place that was much darker than any of us thought he would go.

Jeff Flake

Jeff Flake

Republican senator from Arizona from 2013 to 2019. Flake endorsed Joe Biden in the general election.

I think everyone knew that the U.S. had drilled, and drilled down hard. … It was just kind of despair. … Is this what the Republican Party has come to? Is this how we will be defined?

Tim Miller

Tim Miller

Strategist for Republican Voters Against Trump, a group that ran advertisements featuring testimonials of former Trump aides and supporters.

Reince [Priebus] took the job [as White House chief of staff]. I remember I emailed Reince a note that just basically said, “You know how I feel about this president. You’re going to have a very important job, and it’s going to be to say, ‘No.’ And I hope you have the courage to do that when the time calls for it.” Or something to that effect. And he replied, “Thanks.” And I didn’t talk to him again for a couple of years.

Stephen K. Benjamin

Stephen K. Benjamin

Democratic mayor of Columbia, S.C., since 2010.

I also teach a class periodically at the University of South Carolina’s Honors College. … I took my students to sit with a friend of mine who’s a constitutional scholar who goes around the country helping set up democracies in republics, and I asked him as we met with him, “Was our republic fragile or resilient?” And he’s a very intelligent, very articulate person. He gave me a two-word answer. He said, “We’ll see.”

Cecile Richards

Cecile Richards See bio arrow-right

I was on Trevor Noah’s show talking about Planned Parenthood and then as I went back into the technicians’ room or whatever to say goodbye and thank you, all of the women in the back were knitting pink pussy hats. … So I, of course, like every other person, went to the knitting store and learned how to knit.

The Women’s March

On Jan. 21, 2017, the day after Trump’s inauguration, the Women’s March filled the streets of Washington and those of cities nationwide and worldwide. The outpouring became a symbol of the resistance that was building to challenge the new president and of the emerging political power of women.

With the Capitol in the background, a crowd packs the streets of Washington during the Women's March on Jan. 21, 2017. (Oliver Contreras for The Washington Post)
With the Capitol in the background, a crowd packs the streets of Washington during the Women’s March on Jan. 21, 2017. (Oliver Contreras for The Washington Post)
Cecile Richards

Cecile Richards See bio arrow-right

I remember getting on the plane from Miami [to Washington] and it was packed, and it’s so packed that the flight attendants were trying to get people to take their seats. And there was a guy a few rows ahead of me, a very tall gentleman, and he has like a piece of poster board and he is trying to cram it into the overhead bin. … I kind of yell up to him, like, “Show us your sign,” and this tall White man turns around and he has this homemade sign that says, “I am very upset.” The whole plane just erupted and it became clear that every single person on that plane, none of them was flying up for the inauguration, they were all flying up for the march.

Lauren Underwood

Lauren Underwood

Democratic congresswoman from Illinois since 2019, representing parts of suburban Chicago.

I woke up and I started hearing the marchers outside of my building and I looked out the window and it was this joy that was not present the day before with the Trump inauguration attendees. I was like, “Hmm, this is interesting.” … There’s these groups of women who were in the lobby coordinating their posters and exchanging their hats, just like gathering in the lobby of the building to go out to the march and I was like, “Oh, this is really a different vibe.” So I went back upstairs to my apartment and got dressed and I was like, “Why don’t we just go and see what’s going on?”

Smadar Belkind Gerson

Smadar Belkind Gerson See bio arrow-right

I attended the Women’s March in Washington. … We left at like 8 in the morning to get on the subway and we walked to the subway, and as we were walking — it’s very suburban — and we’re getting to the less suburban area [near] the subway, and you just start seeing … pink hats pop out of everywhere. As you’re getting closer and closer to the subway, there’s more and more pink hats. Oh my God, what is this?

Neera Tanden

Neera Tanden

President of the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank.

Some of our closest friends came down from New York and we met up at the Tenleytown subway and we were crammed, we had to wait for several subways to go by, because they were so crammed, and we finally got into the sixth or seventh one and people were like spontaneously packed in.

Ayanna Pressley

Ayanna Pressley

Democratic congresswoman from Massachusetts since 2019, representing parts of Boston.

I don’t recall anything that I said, except at the end: “Resist.” That’s what I remember. I just felt community, and I felt strength. And I couldn’t see an end to the sea of people.

Yadira Caraveo

Yadira Caraveo

Pediatrician and a Democratic state representative in Colorado, representing suburban Denver.

It was important to see, to demonstrate the ideals that people have. … We are not going to stand idly by and let them trample on our rights. That we’re going to have opinions, we’re going to express those opinions, and we’re going to fight back.

Chrissy Houlahan

Chrissy Houlahan See bio arrow-right

The night before [the march], I had a sign-decorating party at my house, so I invited people to come over and I had poster board and stuff and people made signs and I was struck then by the diversity of the signs that people put together. And on the way back from the march, we passed the microphone around and just kind of talked about our experiences.

Gina Raimondo

Gina Raimondo See bio arrow-right

The Women’s March was the moment that I observed palpably the fear turned. … It was in stages. It was fear, anger and then action. The Women’s March, the reality had set in: He is our president, and we’ve got to move beyond fear and move to action.

Margie Omero

Margie Omero

Democratic pollster who has advised numerous candidates and political groups.

It was so powerful, the spirit of it all. And not just the one in Washington that I went to with my family. But seeing the images all over the world, women and men in every city, every continent, and even thousands of people in cities that you would not think of as the birthplace of the resistance.

Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi See bio arrow-right

It wasn’t organized politically. It was spontaneous, it was organic, it had common values in terms of who was there for immigration, women’s rights, gun violence protection, justice in our court system, climate change, LGBTQ, you name it — a wide range, a wide range of priorities but shared values, and it was a remarkable thing to behold.

On International Women's Day and A Day Without Women, Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands) and her daughter, Taliah, 7, walk to a gathering outside the Capitol on March 8, 2017. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
On International Women’s Day and A Day Without Women, Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands) and her daughter, Taliah, 7, walk to a gathering outside the Capitol on March 8, 2017. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Whit Ayres

Whit Ayres

Longtime Republican pollster. Ayres has advised numerous senators and governors.

My lifelong Republican wife was over on the Mall marching, it was a very personal reminder of how college-educated White women react to this president. Angela had been executive director of the Republican Party in Summit County, Ohio. She had worked in Republican trenches virtually her entire career and she was over there and recruited three or four of her friends to go march with her.

Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg

A former mayor of South Bend, Ind. Buttigieg sought the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. He served in the war in Afghanistan as a Navy officer.

It was the first time I felt a real note of optimism and positivity. I remember South Bend’s version of [the Women’s March]. Folks gathered in the downtown outside of our civic theater. And you could just see different generations together, people lifting each other up. And it had a very different tone than I expected. Still, of course, upset, angry, concerned about the president, but also ready to build the social energy that would become the opposition.

Stephanie Schriock

Stephanie Schriock

President of Emily’s List, which recruits and helps to finance female candidates for office who support abortion rights.

We did a candidate-type training, a training for women who were thinking about running the day after. … We actually sort of guessed we’d have 50 women on Sunday morning to do a training. We had to cap it at 500 because we didn’t have a big enough ballroom and we had a waiting list of 500. So we knew then like this was happening, there was a change, a sea change going on. … Lauren Underwood was in that training the Sunday after the march. Now all of a sudden we’ve got women like Chrissy Houlahan, who sends into the info-at-Emily’s List email her résumé and says, “I think I want to run for office.” We called her up, my team called her up and said, “We got your résumé and would really like to talk.”

Chrissy Houlahan

Chrissy Houlahan See bio arrow-right

I didn’t think anybody monitored that box, it just kind of was like a wing and a prayer sending it out into the universe, and somebody was there and somebody actually took the time to look at me and to think about whether I would fit somewhere, and I think that was pretty darn remarkable.

Brendan Boyle

Brendan Boyle

Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania since 2015, representing a Philadelphia-area district.

I went to a Saturday morning breakfast for the Lansdale Democrats [in Pennsylvania]. And this is an event that I would occasionally attend, typically would draw about 40 or so people. I show up, I can’t find parking because it’s overflow in the parking lot. There are over 200 people at this meeting, and when I stood up and it was my time to speak, I said just how amazed I was at the standing-room-only crowd.” And I said, “I’m just curious. I’ve never asked this before, but for how many of you is this your first ever Democratic meeting?” And a majority of the people in the crowd raised their hand, and it was a majority female by quite a bit.

Ro Khanna

Ro Khanna

Democratic congressman from California since 2017.

My first town hall that I had as an elected official, 1,500 people showed up and I had three overflow rooms. … I remember being just so struck at how on edge people were in my district.

Robert P. Casey Jr.

Robert P. Casey Jr.

Democratic senator from Pennsylvania since 2007.

I remember a year later, you kept hearing these stories … just anecdote or story after story where they said, “In our local group or Democratic group, or some group that gets together on a regular basis of like-minded people, we used to average 20 people a meeting, and we’ve had 70 people at every meeting now.” I mean, just exponential growth in activism. I think more about the Women’s March in terms of the way it amplified that intensity.

Anna Greenberg

Anna Greenberg

Democratic pollster who has polled for House and Senate candidates in the 2020 cycle, as well as super PACs.

It started with a Facebook post and then was bottom-up, and it was happening all over the country. It wasn’t just happening in blue states, it wasn’t just happening in cities. It’s happening everywhere. And for me, the thing that I saw was the number of women who decided to run — and not just run in potentially competitive districts, but run everywhere [and] women, for the first time in my life working on campaigns, actually had an advantage in the primary.

Sean Spicer

Sean Spicer

Longtime Republican operative who served as President Trump’s White House press secretary from January to July in 2017.

There were so many things happening that day. We were breathing out of a fire hose. I knew there was a march going on, but it wasn’t really affecting us. The president was off to the CIA, obviously, and the inauguration stuff was all being addressed. I mean, there were so many things going on at once. I was aware of it, but it wasn’t impacting my day.

The CIA Memorial Wall speech

Also on Jan. 21, 2017, the president visited the CIA headquarters in Virginia. He spoke against the backdrop of the agency’s Memorial Wall, with its 117 stars, each one representing a CIA employee killed in the line of duty. At this revered place, the president delivered a campaign-style speech, barely acknowledging the sacrifices of those represented on the wall.

President Trump delivers a campaign-style speech in front of the Memorial Wall at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., on Jan. 21, 2017. (Olivier Doulier/Getty Images)
President Trump delivers a campaign-style speech in front of the Memorial Wall at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., on Jan. 21, 2017. (Olivier Doulier/Getty Images)
Leon E. Panetta

Leon E. Panetta

Defense secretary, CIA director and White House chief of staff in past Democratic administrations, and a former Democratic congressman from California.

Once this guy got elected, I didn’t have a lot of high expectations. I did think that, like anybody would, once you assume that responsibility as president of the United States that ultimately you would learn or there would be people around you who would guide you.

As a former [White House] chief of staff, I can’t imagine not sitting down with the president and describing to him where he’s going, what is the history of being in front of that wall of stars in the lobby of the CIA, what is the kind of demeanor that he ought to reflect in really that sacred spot for anybody in the intelligence business.

I can remember when [President Barack] Obama went there, he was very careful not to in any way — and there were a lot of people excited for the first time the president was going to be there — to not say anything political that would undermine that special moment. We talked about it before he went out there. Now to have Trump in the same place and suddenly giving a political speech, almost as if he was at another political rally from the campaign, was a shock.

Michael V. Hayden

Michael V. Hayden

Retired four-star Air Force general, served as CIA director and National Security Agency director in the George W. Bush administration. Hayden opposed Donald Trump’s candidacy in 2016.

You have to know that the professionals want the president to succeed. This performance may have shaken their hope that he could. Intelligence is about truth. The goal of an intelligence officer is to get as close to the truth as possible. Something I believe we have in common with the press. It is difficult sometimes, as you well know.

That display in front of the wall of stars demonstrated that Trump is not interested in the truth. He is only interested in burnishing his own image. That moment at the agency planted the seed in the community to give him the truth whether he wanted it or not.

Tammy Duckworth

Tammy Duckworth See bio arrow-right

We just had no idea the depths to which he would sink, and for him to be at the CIA and boasting and turning everything to be about himself when he’s standing next to a wall, a nameless wall, people who laid down their lives for all of us Americans and who will never be recognized publicly for what they have done is … I can’t even come up with the words. I mean, it’s beyond shameful.

Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg See bio arrow-right

It was a really dark moment, because I know what the stars on that wall mean. And I know people who have put it all on the line for this country, some of whom will never be recognized for what they did. And you used to be able to comfort yourself as a Democrat when looking at Republicans, after losing elections, saying, “Well, okay, I may see things differently, but at least they care about some of the same things I care about in terms of keeping this country safe.” … For him to go stand in front of that wall and in front of those stars, and just do naked politics, it was a preview of what was to come.

Juli Briskman

Juli Briskman See bio arrow-right

My ex-husband is retired CIA. … I had gone for a long run with my friends. I got home, and I was like, “Oh, he’s at the CIA, is he?” I actually came home, I made a sign, I drove down, and I stood outside the CIA with my sign. I was the only one standing there with a sign that said, “Not My President.”

So I stood there, and he drove out and drove right past my sign. People thought I was a little crazy, but I felt so bad for not being down at the Women’s March. When I saw what was going on, I was like, “Well, I’ve got to do something.”

The Muslim ban

On Jan. 27, 2017, wrapping up his first week in office, the president signed an executive order that barred entry into the United States of citizens from seven predominantly Muslim nations. The announcement produced pandemonium and confusion at major airports nationwide.

In a rally called Peace for Iran, thousands gather in Lafayette Square in Washington on Feb. 4, 2017, to protest the Trump administration's travel ban on Muslims. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)
In a rally called Peace for Iran, thousands gather in Lafayette Square in Washington on Feb. 4, 2017, to protest the Trump administration’s travel ban on Muslims. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)
Samira Asgari

Samira Asgari

Research fellow in medicine at Harvard University. A native of Iran, Asgari was barred from entering the United States in 2017 because of President Trump’s travel ban.

I am going to board my second plane [in Frankfurt], and I’m also texting on my phone, and I put my boarding pass and it doesn’t show a green light, and my first thought is, “Okay, I just didn’t pay attention, I didn’t put it right.” I put it in again, and again, it doesn’t show a green light, and this time it shows me the red light, the gate doesn’t open for me to go in.

This time there is a guy … and he called me like, “Mrs. Asgari?” I say, “Yes, it’s me.” Then he asked me, “Can we talk a bit away from the other passengers?” I tell him, “But I have a valid visa.” He basically tells me that it doesn’t matter. He tells me, “It’s the American government that gives the visas and they have the power to revoke the visas anytime they wish. So it doesn’t matter that you have a valid visa, your visa is not valid to enter the country.” And again, the tone is not impolite, but it’s certainly condescending, and certainly not nice.

Abdul El-Sayed

Abdul El-Sayed

Doctor and liberal organizer who ran for Michigan governor as a Democrat in 2018.

I was health director in the city of Detroit. My mind was on delivering for people in the city, not high politics. When he said that, I knew there was something specific and dark about this man and about his presidency.

I actually made my way to the Detroit airport. Just interviewing folks and understanding where they were coming from and why they were there. And I knew that there was going to be a real pushback, right? That he was not going to get away with just tearing apart the basic norms, our Constitution. And I knew that this was something that was going to define the country, not just the Democratic Party, but the country, in response to this presidency.

Debbie Dingell

Debbie Dingell

Democratic congresswoman from Michigan since 2015, representing suburban Detroit.

Literally there were 20,000 people at the [Detroit] airport. They came from all over and it was the most spontaneous, wonderful — people came from up north, like Traverse City and Cadillac Michigan and Petoskey, and they came from all over southeast Michigan. People just felt really united that a Muslim travel ban wasn’t okay and that we weren’t going to let that be a message in our community.

Terry McAuliffe

Terry McAuliffe

Governor of Virginia from 2014 to 2018 and chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2005.

I was in the office on an early Saturday morning down in Richmond and I got a call, someone had tipped me off that there was a family problem in Virginia, children that were holding U.S. passports and they were being detained for hours at the airport and not giving them access to legal counsel. I found that absolutely shocking that a U.S. citizen would be held in custody without access to a legal counsel in the United States of America.

I immediately called my attorney general and … I said, “Fly into Dulles, I’m going to meet you up there, we’re going to have a press conference.” I took the helicopter and we flew up. … I was outraged. I remember I walked to the baggage claim area and there were hundreds and hundreds of folks — no hate, no fear, I mean everybody started to show up there. So I went out and did a live press conference. I made it crystal clear, I said I’m the governor of this state, this airport is in my state, they are allowed access to legal counsel, I either want them released immediately or I want access to legal counsel immediately.

Families were just horrified, tensed up, stressed out, upset, rightfully so and this just didn’t happen in our country and Trump did it all, he set that off and it really was a frightening moment for our country.

Sean Spicer

Sean Spicer See bio arrow-right

It just seemed chaotic and hectic. I think there’s no question that we didn’t seem organized at all. … I remember talking to, I think it was [Terry] McAuliffe. At one point, he said, “Hey, dude, there’s guys at Dulles Airport that are just stuck.” I mean, it was so not well-executed. The immigration folks didn’t know what to make of it. There was no clear definition as to what the full scope of it was.

Suzanne Bonamici

Suzanne Bonamici

Democratic congresswoman from Oregon since 2012, representing the Portland area.

I called my staff and I said, “I need to go to the airport. Meet me out there.” So I went with Sarah, my district director, and I think she reminded me that she was going directly from her daughter’s birthday party to the airport. And we arrived at the airport, and I know Senator [Jeff] Merkley was there as well, and a lot of people from the community. The PDX International Airport is operated by the Port of Portland, and they had set up to make sure that we had a safe place to make our voices heard, kept an area clear for protesters.

Kate Brown

Kate Brown

Democratic governor of Oregon since 2015.

At the very outset some of us thought that there was a possibility that this president could be a game changer, right? That he would be willing to set aside the horrible rhetoric that he ran on and be a president for the whole country. Our hopes, at least mine, faded very quickly, because the first thing I was dealing with was the Muslim ban.

I started asking the national ACLU, “What other states are sanctuary states for our immigrant populations?” Oregon was the only one. We were the only one at that time that was a sanctuary state by state statute. … Once I learned that Oregon was the only state, we took that as a basis for expanding protections for our community members that were undocumented. So, I believe in that executive order, we prohibited a Muslim ban here in Oregon.

Tareq Aziz, front, hugs his father, Aquel Aziz, after arriving at Dulles International Airport in Virginia with his brother Ammar on Feb. 6, 2017. The two brothers, who had green cards, had been denied entry the previous week because of the Trump administration's travel ban and had to return to Addis Ababa, where their flight had originated. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)
Tareq Aziz, front, hugs his father, Aquel Aziz, after arriving at Dulles International Airport in Virginia with his brother Ammar on Feb. 6, 2017. The two brothers, who had green cards, had been denied entry the previous week because of the Trump administration’s travel ban and had to return to Addis Ababa, where their flight had originated. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)
Claire Murphy

Claire Murphy

Washington-based lawyer who volunteered in 2017 at Dulles International Airport to assist travelers detained because of President Trump’s travel ban.

Everyone was scared in some way, no one felt 100 percent safe walking into that situation. … There are people who are putting a lot on the line, and the congresspeople, too, they should be representing the people and they should be showing up and doing what’s right. But at the same time, that’s really a brand new, one week into a presidency, to be showing up and saying, “Wow, we think what you’re doing is unconstitutional?” That’s a huge move on the part of these politicians. So everyone is there, everybody’s putting something on the line to be there.

Amy Klobuchar

Amy Klobuchar See bio arrow-right

Even though I knew how horrible he’d been during the campaign, horrible to Hillary, all those things, I just thought, you always have hope, right? You think, “Oh, maybe he’ll work on immigration reform, because he’s a businessman and he had immigrants that worked for him.”

Abdul El-Sayed

Abdul El-Sayed See bio arrow-right

Our experiences as Muslim Americans has often been left out and hung out to dry with no real allies. And I think seeing that the broader community of people who believe in the Constitution were going to jump to our aid and be there with us and for us, I thought that was really huge.

Gini Gerbasi

Gini Gerbasi

Rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington. Gerbasi previously worked as a criminal defense lawyer and in public policy relating to poverty and hunger.

What encouraged me was the lawyers meeting at airports. There was this grass-roots connection of people across the country to fight back. And I was a lawyer before I was a priest. So I ended up on this Facebook group trying to do legal research on immigration issues or connect people to more lawyers and stuff like that. And that group is still on Facebook now, just doing different things. Because at first, it was mobilized to go to airports and help people who were being stranded by or impacted by the Muslim ban. And then it spread out once we learned about the kids, the families being separated at the border, or just lawyers willing to file lawsuits about voting rights issues.

Samira Asgari

Samira Asgari See bio arrow-right

For the most part, the U.S. president was not part of my thoughts at all before this. And then it happened, and the first reaction, the beginning of Trump’s presidency, the image was he is someone that is against Muslims, and he’s someone that is trying to propagate fear against Muslims, and he’s going be someone that is trying to divide people.

Beto O’Rourke

Beto O’Rourke

Democratic congressman from Texas from 2013 to 2019, representing the El Paso area. O’Rourke sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

It went beyond what I thought was possible. And I feel somewhat foolish saying that … because Trump said that he was going to try to ban Muslims from coming into this country. I think at that moment, I had a full appreciation for how intent he was upon doing things like banning all people, of one faith, from this country. Made it very clear to me that his rhetoric on immigrants, Mexicans and asylum seekers was not just a campaign point.

Andrew Weissmann

Andrew Weissmann

Lead prosecutor in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation.

I was very concerned about the callousness of doing something that was going to affect so many people without putting in the due diligence and work to getting the law right and how it was going to be tailored to the group. Even if you felt this was the right policy, it wasn’t done right. That was just a striking contrast to the world I had come from when I worked in the FBI under Mueller.

Miles Taylor

Miles Taylor

Former chief of staff to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. While working as an appointee of President Trump, Taylor wrote an anonymous op-ed for the New York Times denouncing the president.

At first glance, I knew that it was written in a way that was disastrous because it was written such that any individual from those countries, even if they had a green card to come to the United States, couldn’t come in. That just struck me as clearly illegal on its face. It was evidence of the fact that this was going to be an administration that operated in the shadows rather than did disciplined policy coordination, let alone legal coordination on its official acts.

Whit Ayres

Whit Ayres See bio arrow-right

Jeb Bush was right. He said Donald Trump was a “chaos candidate” and his would be a “chaos presidency.” You talk about foretelling the future.

The health-care battle

With Trump in the White House, repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act became the first priority of Republicans in Congress. Democrats began to organize in opposition, and at town hall events around the country, GOP lawmakers were confronted by grass-roots protests. The climactic moment came in the early hours of July 28, 2017, when Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) sank the repeal effort with a “no” vote, dramatically signaled with a thumbs-down gesture.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill on July 13, 2017, two weeks before he sank an effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act with a “no” vote. (Oliver Contreras for The Washington Post)
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill on July 13, 2017, two weeks before he sank an effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act with a “no” vote. (Oliver Contreras for The Washington Post)
Neera Tanden

Neera Tanden See bio arrow-right

There was a bit of a robust discussion about whether to negotiate with Trump over ACA or fight tooth and nail, and basically I said in the meeting that other people can do what they want, but we’re fighting this tooth and nail. I was like, “You negotiate with this guy and it’s over, like he’s going to smell weakness and we’re going to be done.”

The most important thing was we were able, in that kind of initial period of November to January, to hold Democrats from saying they would negotiate. This is where we held the line.

Geoff Garin

Geoff Garin

Longtime Democratic pollster. In the 2020 election cycle, he worked for Priorities USA, a pro-Biden super PAC, among other campaigns and causes.

We did a poll for the Center for American Progress in mid-December. … What we really found from the get-go was not just the receptivity to Democrats being an aggressive opposition but a demand for Democrats to be an aggressive opposition.

Alisha Hoffman-Mirilovich

Alisha Hoffman-Mirilovich See bio arrow-right

Our focus early on was the Affordable Care Act. … We went to [Republican Rep.] Lou Barletta’s office every week almost. We were having rallies. I think our first rally was in February of 2017 to show our support for the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid.

Neera Tanden

Neera Tanden See bio arrow-right

[The Center for American Progress] had been working with “Never Trumpers” throughout the ACA, the Never Trumpers who were closest to McCain, so I talked regularly to [McCain adviser] John Weaver. It was quite a dramatic thing, because they were sort of communicating that he was actually inclined to vote against the bill.

The night of the vote, I’m going on CNN and Mike Lynch [Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s chief of staff] calls me … it’s 11:30 at night and he said, “We’re going to lose the vote.” And I said, “Well, how do you know you’re going to lose the vote?” He’s like, “We’re losing [Sen. Rob] Portman [R-Ohio], we’re losing [Sen. Shelly Moore] Capito [R-W.Va.].” And then I went down the list and said, “What about McCain?” And Lynch says to me, “Neera, a bathtub of tears have been cried by Democrats waiting for John McCain to vote with them.”

Robert P. Casey Jr.

Robert P. Casey Jr. See bio arrow-right

I obviously was in the [Senate] chamber, but what I remember most about it was walking over, thinking on the way over, we’re not going to get his vote and it’s just going to go down. … My recollection was Chris Murphy said, “McCain just told me that he was going to do something that’s going to piss off Republicans,” or something to that effect. … I got so damn superstitious that I didn’t repeat it.

Amy Klobuchar

Amy Klobuchar See bio arrow-right

[McCain] told me what he was going to do that night in the chamber. … When he walked in, you can see him go over and whisper to me. He told me what he was going to do, that he was going to vote “no.”

Robert P. Casey Jr.

Robert P. Casey Jr. See bio arrow-right

When he did it, it was electric in that room. … Chuck [Schumer] turning and putting his hand up. He was trying to silence our side, because there was an audible gasp. And then I think someone started to clap or exclaimed in some way, and Chuck didn’t want any of that.

Anna Greenberg

Anna Greenberg See bio arrow-right

That was the moment when Obamacare, which had been sort of a problem for Democrats, became the issue in the 2018 election.

The Charlottesville rally

On the evening of Aug. 11, 2017, hundreds of white supremacist, neo-Nazi and alt-right demonstrators converged on Charlottesville for a Unite the Right rally in protest of the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a city park.

Chanting
Chanting “White lives matter,” “You will not replace us” and “Jews will not replace us,” several hundred white nationalists and white supremacists carry torches during a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in August 2017. (Evelyn Hockstein for The Washington Post)
Terry McAuliffe

Terry McAuliffe See bio arrow-right

Literally hundreds of these folks came down off the mountain. It was like a long snake of torches, and you could hear the chants, the famous chants from Nazi Germany. “Jews will not replace us!”

Traci Blackmon

Traci Blackmon

Senior pastor at Christ the King United Church of Christ in Florissant, Mo. In 2017, she traveled to Charlottesville to support people protesting against white supremacists.

We were singing and we were praying, and it was time to go, and someone came up into the pulpit area and whispered in my ear, “We can’t do the benediction yet. Keep singing.”… There were alt-right people all around the church.

Then I opened the door and all I could see, as far as I could see, were tiki torches. I didn’t even know in that moment that they were tiki torches. All I could see was fire, people holding the fire, and I could hear the chants. And they were chanting, “You cannot replace us! Jews cannot replace us!” “Whose streets? Our streets!” And I remember that so vividly, because “Whose streets? Our streets!” was the chant that originated in Ferguson [Mo., after Michael Brown Jr. was shot and killed by a police officer].

Brendan Boyle

Brendan Boyle See bio arrow-right

I remember as a kid there would occasionally be KKK marches somewhere. It was typically about a dozen or two dozen people. They would wear the hoods. That’s not what Charlottesville was. It was a lot of people proudly displaying their faces, carrying the tiki torches. I was, and still am, absolutely disgusted and very surprised by it.

Abdul El-Sayed

Abdul El-Sayed See bio arrow-right

I didn’t live through the rise of Hitler after World War I, but when you read about it in the history books, it felt like the history coming back to life, and it was scary.

Traci Blackmon

Traci Blackmon See bio arrow-right

There were no hoods and no sheets. … What I saw were young people in khakis and polos and looking like they would be friends with my children, looking like people that I work with. I wasn’t prepared for that.

Terry McAuliffe

Terry McAuliffe See bio arrow-right

You talk to these folks and they will tell you that they felt unleashed by Donald Trump. The language that he used about people allowed them to be able to do it themselves. Where they may have had these feelings for a very long time, they didn’t act on them, didn’t think it was appropriate. Trump gave them a license to spew their hatred.

The next morning, Aug. 12, counterprotesters began demonstrating peacefully in opposition to the white nationalist rally but soon thereafter a series of skirmishes took place. Violence escalated, and by day’s end, one person, Heather Heyer, was dead and 23 people were injured.

Demonstrators and counterprotesters clash at the rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017. Days later, President Trump told reporters that there was “blame on both sides” for the violence. (Evelyn Hockstein for The Washington Post)
Demonstrators and counterprotesters clash at the rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017. Days later, President Trump told reporters that there was “blame on both sides” for the violence. (Evelyn Hockstein for The Washington Post)
Susan Bro

Susan Bro

Director of the Heather Heyer Foundation, named after her activist daughter who was killed in 2017 while peacefully protesting a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.

Heather didn’t want to go. She didn’t like to walk, it’s August, she had to work. … [But] she saw that and said, “I need to go.” … She was 32. Thirty-two-year-olds tend to feel somewhat immortal. Death is a distant specter. So she went.

Constance Paige Young

Constance Paige Young

Anti-racism activist and advocate for survivors of sexual violence. Young was injured in 2017 while peacefully protesting the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.

I knew that it was dangerous, but there wasn’t really any part of me that felt like I could sit this out. … Especially given my own personal legacy. I am a descendant of enslaved people here in the United States.

Susan Bro

Susan Bro See bio arrow-right

[Heather] and her friends started on the opposite side of the downtown mall, far away from where the park was. Far away from the statue. And they stayed on that opposite side, walking down the street with a lot of other counterprotesters who were chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets.” “Black lives matter.” “No fascists, no KKK.”

Gini Gerbasi

Gini Gerbasi See bio arrow-right

I remember seeing the images of my clergy siblings there and putting themselves between the white supremacy groups and the people who had come out to counterprotest, and I remember being just so moved by that. Like, yeah, that’s what Christianity — not just Christianity, because they weren’t just Christians — that’s what a life of faith looks like.

Constance Paige Young

Constance Paige Young See bio arrow-right

McGuffey Park is a quaint park. I believe there’s a swing set or two. It’s a nice park to take children to. I was seeing these white nationalists yelling horrible things at us from this park. … They were calling me names. They were calling a lot of people names. I was called the worst kind of wildlife, “monkey,” “jungle bunny,” you name it. They were yelling at me. There were moments when I got angry and I started yelling back at them. Then I realized, for what? Why am I yelling at them? That’s not what I came here for.

It was so eerie because we saw tiki torches everywhere. You see a dumpster behind a building, there were tiki torches that people had disposed of. You turn a corner and you see more tiki torches on the ground over here.

The day turned deadly when a self-identified white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, including Heyer.

A memorial is set up in August 2017 at the site where Heather Heyer, a peaceful counterprotester, was killed in a car attack at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. (Evelyn Hockstein for The Washington Post)
A memorial is set up in August 2017 at the site where Heather Heyer, a peaceful counterprotester, was killed in a car attack at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. (Evelyn Hockstein for The Washington Post)
Susan Bro

Susan Bro See bio arrow-right

You can see his car sitting at the top of the hill. … At that point, he accelerated into the crowd.

Constance Paige Young

Constance Paige Young See bio arrow-right

I don’t remember meeting Heather Heyer, the woman who was killed, but I do remember running into Courtney, one of her friends. Courtney and I exchanged pleasantries quickly. Courtney was right there with Heather. This is just so eerie to me. It was just moments later that the car came plowing down the street. I remember thinking to myself, “We’re about to get hit.”

Then I remember being on the ground. I had extreme tunnel vision. I couldn’t see anything on the sides of me at all and my vision was very blurry. I remember just being on the ground and then I heard people screaming, “Get up! Get up! He’s reversing! He’s reversing!” Somehow, I managed to pull myself up. I remember grabbing onto people’s bodies to pull myself up.

Susan Bro

Susan Bro See bio arrow-right

[Heather’s friend] called me. … He’s crying and he keeps saying, “I think she was hit by that car.”

My son called me, from out of state, and he said, “I was watching on TV. I saw the car drive into the crowd and I called her phone, and somebody else picked it up and said they don’t know who she is or where she is.”

I’m waiting [at the hospital], trying to be polite, because if you’re not polite it’s going to take longer. Inside, I was screaming. They handed me a number, 20, which I still have on my refrigerator now, and then these two women grabbed me on either side, I don’t know who they were, and they walked me up a ramp and I’m going, “Oh, God, oh, God.” And I walked in the room, they told me she was pronounced [dead]. I remember this awful, awful sound came out of me. … I would tell all the doctors, “I’m proud of how she died. I’m proud of what she was doing.” It was just something to get me through.

I didn’t actually see her body until the day before the funeral, when I identified the body and I held her hand, and I said, “I love you and I’m sorry, and I’m going to make this count.”

On Aug. 15, President Trump delivered his third set of public remarks about Charlottesville. Addressing reporters from the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, the president said there was “blame on both sides” for the violence. He added, “You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”

President Trump speaks to reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York about Charlottesville on Aug. 15, 2017. He said there was “blame on both sides” for the violence. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
President Trump speaks to reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York about Charlottesville on Aug. 15, 2017. He said there was “blame on both sides” for the violence. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Terry McAuliffe

Terry McAuliffe See bio arrow-right

[Earlier that day] the president called. … I said, “You know, sir, you have really gotta stop this hate speech.” It was not just Charlottesville, but it was the lead-up, everything around immigration. So he’s listening and listening and listening, and then at one point I said, “You know, Mr. President, your language is really hurting my economy in Northern Virginia.” As soon as I mentioned the economy, he just went on like how great the economy is doing. It was like he wasn’t even listening to me.

Constance Paige Young

Constance Paige Young See bio arrow-right

It was all upsetting. I felt like, “I can handle this. I can handle all of this.” Then when I heard Donald Trump say, “very fine people, on both sides,” I remember that my heart sank and I got scared.

Jesse Jackson

Jesse Jackson

Baptist minister and civil rights leader who sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988.

They’re taking laps, attacking Jewish people and Black people directly. Heather Heyer was killed and the president didn’t offer condolences to the family. He equated the Nazis with the common people. That was quite a statement he made there. [Former Ku Klux Klan leader] David Duke and those [people] rejoiced in that.

Miles Taylor

Miles Taylor See bio arrow-right

Just weeks before that, I had stood in the Oval Office as John Kelly was sworn in as chief of staff. After that first seven months in the administration, I felt much more confident that things would finally calm down and that the president would finally be kept a little bit more in check and his impulses wouldn’t be what ran the entirety of the U.S. government. I had a lot of faith in John Kelly, but nothing was more dispiriting than realizing in that moment that there was really nothing that the so-called axis of adults could do to contain the worst in Donald Trump.

Nina Turner

Nina Turner

Former Ohio state senator and liberal activist. She was a national co-chairman of the 2020 Bernie Sanders campaign.

Those of us who are blessed enough to make it to the 21st century, you want to believe that things have really changed. Then you come face-to-face with a Charlottesville and you see that things really have not changed all that much.

Stephen K. Benjamin

Stephen K. Benjamin See bio arrow-right

I’m a student of history, I’m a student of the South, I’m a student of the liberal arts and social studies, and I’m a big believer that while all the hard sciences are very important, we have to understand that we’re connected by the ties of history, and to see Charlottesville happen in 2017 in the United States of America broke a lot of people’s hearts.

Tim Miller

Tim Miller See bio arrow-right

I had a lot of white nationalists tweeting at me with their weird white genocide memes and things like this. But it’s hard to tell what of this is real, what of this is fake. I think that Charlottesville brought that into the public light. You saw that these are real people — and a decent number of them — marching through the streets yelling, “Jews will not replace us.” … The country’s conscience was shocked by this amorphous threat becoming very real and visible, and the president downplaying it because they were his own supporters.

Mike Donilon

Mike Donilon

Longtime adviser to former vice president Joe Biden. Donilon has served as a senior adviser to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.

Right after it happened, I got a call from Biden and he said he wanted to speak out on it, and so we put together an article that ran in the Atlantic. And that really in many ways served as kind of a foundational document for the campaign.

He felt it represented kind of a dangerous turn in the country. What he thought was a kind of a license that was being given by Trump to the kind of white supremacist extremist kind of hate groups. It was on full display, it was in public and he thought [Trump] was breathing oxygen into. I think he started looking at Trump almost differently in a way, that this is now really a fundamental threat to the country.

Miles Taylor

Miles Taylor See bio arrow-right

In the aftermath, a lot of people talked about resigning. … Three different senior officials that I remember distinctly in probably the 24 hours that followed the president’s remarks who said, “I think this is enough. I’m going to pack it up and go home. What’s the point?” I actually had conversations with a number of those individuals and said, “You really can’t leave. In fact, if anything, it’s episodes like this that are the reason we have to stay in the administration.”

Gini Gerbasi

Gini Gerbasi See bio arrow-right

It revealed to me an unveiling of who [Trump] really is, and that those of us who were hoping that it wasn’t going to be as bad as we feared were wrong. It was going to be as bad or worse. … It was a signal that he was not going to provide leadership. His hateful speech was not just campaign rhetoric or vague allusions to white supremacy. He was going to normalize this.

Traci Blackmon

Traci Blackmon See bio arrow-right

I won’t speak for everyone. I would say for me, it was the realization that we were at war with the state. When I say at war with the state, what I mean is: When you have political leadership that can’t bring itself to say what happened in Charlottesville was wrong and was not reflective of this country. … When you recognize that it’s not just systems and policies and legislation that has to be changed but that there are people — and that it’s not ignorance, and that it’s not presumption — that there are masses of people who are willing to kill, to hurt, to maintain this system of oppression. When you’re forced to look at that, and then the leader of the country says these are “fine people,” then you realize that this is not about a few rogue voices. This is the condition of our state.

The drive-by resistance

On Oct. 28, 2017, as President Trump departed his private golf course in Sterling, Va., after a Saturday on the links, he came face-to-face with the resistance.

Juli Briskman gestures with her middle finger as President Trump's motorcade leaves Trump National Golf Course in Sterling, Va., on Oct. 28, 2017. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)
Juli Briskman gestures with her middle finger as President Trump’s motorcade leaves Trump National Golf Course in Sterling, Va., on Oct. 28, 2017. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)
Juli Briskman

Juli Briskman See bio arrow-right

So I’m riding [my bicycle] and very quickly after I turned right onto Lowes Island Boulevard, black cars started passing me. I remember thinking, “Oh, yeah, he’s at the golf course today.” … They start passing me and I just started thinking about how angry I was about what was going on in our country, the direction he was taking us, and how bad it is. … We had the travel ban, we had the hurricane in Puerto Rico, we had dismantling Obamacare.

I just thought, “You know, not many people get to be this close to this guy and tell them what they think.” All I had was my finger, and so that’s what I did.

I’ll tell you, the first thing I did after I got fired [from a government contractor job for flipping off the president’s motorcade] was I went to the Loudoun County Democratic Committee and volunteered to work that November, to work the polls that November election. I was like, “Well, I’m free all day.”

The Parkland massacre

On Feb. 14, 2018, a gunman killed 17 people and injured 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. It was the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history, and came a few months after mass shootings in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Tex.

Students file out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., after a mass shooting on Feb. 14, 2018. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Students file out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., after a mass shooting on Feb. 14, 2018. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Cameron Kasky

Cameron Kasky See bio arrow-right

I’m a kid who is very, very mad that a bunch of kids got killed at my school on Valentine’s Day. I’m a kid who had to rip a teddy bear out of my developmentally disabled little brother’s hands while we were running out of school, because they said, “You can’t have anything in your hands.” The SWAT team said that. And I said, “You know what? The guns are the problem. And if you don’t believe me, look at every shooting ever.”

Fred Guttenberg

Fred Guttenberg

Activist against gun violence. Guttenberg’s daughter, Jaime, was killed in the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

My grieving has been my activism. Whether or not that’s healthy, I’m not sure, but it started the day after Jaime was killed. The first 24 hours were a whirlwind. Honestly, everything was just spinning. And then, on the 15th of February, 2018, I went to this community vigil in Parkland, at a park, there were thousands of people there. And then when I got there, the mayor asked me if I wanted to take her spot to speak. … I ended up letting it rip. I just ended up being as brutally honest about how I was feeling as I could. I talked about how I was feeling in terms of feeling broken. I talked about not knowing what I’m going to do next. And by the end of that speech, I was saying, “This time, gun violence came to the wrong community and the wrong dad.” And when I got home from that, I walked in my door. My wife was still home because she couldn’t leave the house. So, there were family and friends in our house. And I just said to everybody, “I’m going to break the f—ing gun lobby.”

Tammy Duckworth

Tammy Duckworth See bio arrow-right

It was devastating. My daughter started kindergarten this year … and I remember just being terrified with Parkland, and I will tell you, I’m not embarrassed to say this, I’ve actually researched bulletproof whiteboards that maybe I should be buying and donating to her classroom. And is that the America that we’re in, that parents are so terrified that before they send their kids to school to start the school year, part of a new school year shopping lists isn’t just colored markers and pencil boxes and a new lunchbox, but also maybe I should buy you a bulletproof backpack?

Beto O’Rourke

Beto O’Rourke See bio arrow-right

What so moved me, beyond the immediate tragedy and the loss of life, [was] my deepening frustration at our inaction in the face of this threat, certainly by Republicans, who have just become so obsequious to the NRA and the gun lobby. … Here you have these kids, in many cases too young to vote, who were having none of it. They were not going to accept excuses from Democrats, or the prior justifications that they’ve heard from Republicans, for a condition and a set of laws that allows the deaths of tens of thousands of our fellow Americans every year. That was galvanizing.

Steve Zipper of Parkland, Fla., visits a makeshift memorial in Pine Trails Park on Feb. 17, 2018, for the victims of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
Steve Zipper of Parkland, Fla., visits a makeshift memorial in Pine Trails Park on Feb. 17, 2018, for the victims of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
Cameron Kasky

Cameron Kasky See bio arrow-right

Young people, when they are given a chance to have agency, will take it, and they will lead. And they are not as apathetic as people painted us.

Fred Guttenberg

Fred Guttenberg See bio arrow-right

I rewrote the ending to my eulogy to Jaime to directly address the current occupant of the White House politicizing my daughter’s murder. And I directly said to him, “You do not have permission to do that, but you do have permission to join me in a mission to combat gun violence.” And the response [from] the 2,000 people that were there at the funeral, it was overwhelming. And I just knew I couldn’t stop.

Beto O’Rourke

Beto O’Rourke See bio arrow-right

What later became the March for Our Lives movement, those high school students, shocked the conscience of the country in a way that has led to the House of Representatives now having passed universal background checks. … There’s something about a young person being willing to take risks and to call out those in positions of authority that really has a way of taking hold of your conscience, and these students certainly did that.

Cameron Kasky

Cameron Kasky See bio arrow-right

The media found a bunch of little poster kids to espouse Democratic views, and if anybody criticized anything we said, it would come off as though they were criticizing our experience as survivors and not our political points. Basically, the Democratic Party was frothing at the mouth when they saw us go out and talk, because they said, “Oh, okay, cool. These kids are a megaphone by which we can espouse our views.” So the Republicans were out there attacking us, calling us horrible things, and the Democrats were using us.

Fred Guttenberg

Fred Guttenberg See bio arrow-right

[Joe Biden] and I spent about 45 minutes on the phone. He was on his way from Virginia to New York for a Beau Biden Foundation event at the time. At the time, he was not running for anything. And it was like talking to an old friend or talking to an uncle. He talked to me a lot about my family. He talked to me a lot about his family. He talked to me about going through grief, which is something he’s unfortunately had a lot of. And he asked me what my plan was. And I told him about my decision to take on the gun lobby. And that’s when he spoke to me about mission and purpose and how mission and purpose gets him through it. And mission and purpose has literally become my rallying cry. It’s how I think of my life every day now.

The family separations

Beginning in April 2018, the Trump administration began a “zero tolerance” policy designed to deter illegal immigration by separating migrant children from their undocumented parents or guardians upon crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The family separations and the conditions in which the children were held sparked national outrage, and President Trump signed an executive order on June 20, 2018, ending family separations. More than 500 migrant children still have not been reunited with their families.

Undocumented boys rest under Mylar blankets at the U.S. Border Patrol central processing center in McAllen, Tex., on Aug. 12, 2019. Some of them were unaccompanied and others crossed with their families, but were then separated. (Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post)
Undocumented boys rest under Mylar blankets at the U.S. Border Patrol central processing center in McAllen, Tex., on Aug. 12, 2019. Some of them were unaccompanied and others crossed with their families, but were then separated. (Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post)
Ruben Garcia

Ruben Garcia

Director of Annunciation House in El Paso. Garcia has sheltered migrants for more than four decades.

One of the fathers said that he was in the big room and there were a lot of parents there and there were a lot of immigration officers. And he said an immigration officer came up to him … and said to him that his son had to go to the other room. They didn’t say what was going to happen. Just, “Your son needs to go to this other room.” … He never again saw his son.

Tania Chavez

Tania Chavez See bio arrow-right

I was outside rallying and protesting. One of the most heartbreaking memories that I have of those days is actually seeing the children being [taken away on buses], so you see them, basically in a shuttle with tinted windows, but you can still see the children’s faces through the other side of the tinted windows. They’re waving at you. They’re children, so they still have a smile on their face, many of them. You can see their little hands being lifted as they’re waving to the crowd outside the detention center.

Margo Cowan

Margo Cowan

Public defender in Pima County, Ariz., who also manages a community immigration clinic called Keep Tucson Together.

There fell a dark curtain, really very early on. … People that we represented in detention, they were like, “Where are my kids? I want to talk to my kids.” We would try and find kids and we couldn’t find kids. … The images I have in my mind, the wailing of these people, mothers and fathers who know that when they’re denied bond, they’ll never see their children again.

Jeff Merkley

Jeff Merkley

Democratic senator from Oregon since 2009.

I flew down to the border from Oregon. … There was a group of press outside of the detention center that said, “What’s going on inside?” I’m like, “Well, the press hasn’t been in? You all haven’t been allowed to see what’s going on?” They said, “No, we have no idea what’s going on.” I said, “Well, I’ll tell you what I see when I come out.” When I came out and described what I had seen, I was kind of in a state of shock.

Ray [the senator’s aide] and I went up the road to that former Walmart, because I had been tipped off that hundreds of boys were being held who had been separated from their parents in that former Walmart. … As I stood outside that Walmart asking permission to go in, I was doing basically a commentary over Facebook saying why was I there and what I had heard. … In ways, it was a blessing because it drew the attention of America to the fact that there was something really horrific going on that they didn’t want to talk about, let alone allow a senator to see. That kind of busted the whole thing open, because millions of people watched that video.

Beto O’Rourke

Beto O’Rourke See bio arrow-right

Folks drove to El Paso from the Northwest, they flew to El Paso from the East Coast, they came in from the panhandle of Texas and the eastern part of the state, they came from all over.

Tania Chavez

Tania Chavez See bio arrow-right

At times, we’ve felt really impotent because many people across the nation were sending us emails saying, “Oh, I have toys for the children.” “I have teddy bears for the children.” … We just didn’t have the heart to tell them we don’t have access to the kids because they’re in a government facility.

Steve Adler

Steve Adler

Democratic mayor of Austin since 2015.

I went to the border with a group of mayors, not only from Texas, but from across the country. And you could just feel the resolve when things had gone so bad, when the line between what was right and what was wrong was so blurred, when our core values as a country were so contorted and ignored. That was, I think, a real important moment as we looked into the mirror to see what was being done.

Marlen Xiomara Moya of Guatemala embraces her sons Gael Moya, 6, and Anderson Moya, 8, in Mylar blankets that were distributed by Border Patrol agents to brace against the near-freezing temperatures, while they wait in line to be taken to a holding facility in El Paso on Feb. 22, 2019. (Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post)
Marlen Xiomara Moya of Guatemala embraces her sons Gael Moya, 6, and Anderson Moya, 8, in Mylar blankets that were distributed by Border Patrol agents to brace against the near-freezing temperatures, while they wait in line to be taken to a holding facility in El Paso on Feb. 22, 2019. (Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post)
Veronica Escobar

Veronica Escobar

Democratic congresswoman from Texas since 2019, representing the El Paso area.

I needed to fight for my community, I needed to defend my community and I needed to enlist in this battle for the heart and soul of our country, for our values, for who we are as a nation.

Pramila Jayapal

Pramila Jayapal

Democratic congresswoman from Washington state since 2017, representing parts of Seattle.

We heard a rumor that there are hundreds of parents who have been transferred from the southern border to the SeaTac federal facility [in Washington state], the federal prison. … I said, “I’d like to come and visit.”

It was heartbreaking. I don’t know any other way to describe it. I was already heartbroken by what I had heard, but then seeing these women, and I went back the next weekend to talk to the men, but seeing these women and talking to them and just seeing the tears. They were sobbing. They didn’t know what had happened to their children. … They could hear their children screaming for them in the next room, and they were not allowed to go to them.

Beto O’Rourke

Beto O’Rourke See bio arrow-right

What Donald Trump was willing to do to other people, and the way in which he was talking about our fellow human beings, using words like “infestation,” “animals,” “invasion” — and he was treating them as such, putting them in cages, and he was taking them from their parents and he was seeking rhetorically to dehumanize them so that those at the border can treat them as less than human, which is exactly what happened.

Neera Tanden

Neera Tanden See bio arrow-right

It was very painful. I remember just feeling terrible, like, how could the country do this and, like, Hillary’s loss literally meant to torture children.

Whit Ayres

Whit Ayres See bio arrow-right

The family separation crisis is what gave even more energy to the White college-educated voter resistance. Even if they weren’t negative on Donald Trump and his administration before, watching kids being separated from their parents and put in what looked an awful lot like cages just appalled most people of compassion.

Anna Greenberg

Anna Greenberg See bio arrow-right

People cared less about it than I thought they would. I mean, I had some pretty shocking moments in focus groups where people would say, “Well, they came here illegally. You do the crime, you do the time.” Or, “They should have known.” On the other hand, immigration ended up not being the issue that the Republicans wanted it to be. They’ve run immigration ads every cycle and … it just didn’t work for them in 2018.

Geoff Garin

Geoff Garin See bio arrow-right

The separation of children from their parents and image of children in cages really struck a raw nerve with voters. … The view of Trump got transformed from he is for protecting the border to he’s anti-immigrant, and anti-immigrant in a very cruel way.

The Kavanaugh hearings

In the fall of 2018, the Supreme Court nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh was rocked by allegations of sexual assault. A nation torn over the #MeToo movement was gripped by the emotional Senate testimony of one of his accusers, Christine Blasey Ford, and by President Trump’s fiery defenses of his nominee. On Oct. 6, the Republican-controlled Senate voted along party lines to confirm Kavanaugh.

People gather to protest Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh on Sept. 27, 2018, the day that he and Christine Blasey Ford, who accused him of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers, testified on Capitol Hill. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
People gather to protest Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh on Sept. 27, 2018, the day that he and Christine Blasey Ford, who accused him of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers, testified on Capitol Hill. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
Ana Maria Archila

Ana Maria Archila

Co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy. Archila helped organize protests against Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.

There were like hundreds of women lining up the street, both sides of the Supreme Court, and there were these young girls, three or four young girls, who were maybe 8 years old, and they were crying. They were both worried. … You could tell that this moment was shaping their consciousness in a very powerful way.

Amy Klobuchar

Amy Klobuchar See bio arrow-right

I decided, in sort of a lawyerly fashion, I’m going to question him, not about law books or anything, but about the inconsistency that we had heard from people who knew him in high school and about the fact that he was drinking back then. And I shared with him that my own dad was an alcoholic and I was trying to understand — because that was my view of this thing, right? — did he really black out? Maybe he doesn’t remember what happened. Those were kind of my questions. And then I asked him if he ever drank so much that he didn’t remember what happened. And instead of answering my questions, he turned it back on me and asked if I had a drinking problem.

My first thought was to keep my dignity. I just kind of looked at him, because I just thought, this was just rolling out of control, how he was acting compared to [Blasey Ford], and I thought I’d keep my dignity — not just for the Senate, but also for the country, for her.

Tammy Duckworth

Tammy Duckworth See bio arrow-right

As someone who’s worked on military sexual trauma and who’s worked on issues of sexual harassment in the military, and listening to those hearings, the fact of the matter is that I couldn’t believe that Senate Republicans would not do their jobs and allow for a full investigation as to what happened.

Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh is sworn in at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Sept. 27, 2018. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh is sworn in at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Sept. 27, 2018. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
Jeff Flake

Jeff Flake See bio arrow-right

I was headed to the [Senate Judiciary] Committee to advance him to the floor for a floor vote, but I was very unsettled about it and I didn’t feel good about what we had done, particularly what we hadn’t done in the Senate in terms of due diligence. And I felt we could have done more [to investigate the allegations] and that we needed to.

Ana Maria Archila

Ana Maria Archila See bio arrow-right

We stood in front of Senator Flake’s office. … He had put out a press statement that said that he was ready to vote for Kavanaugh. Which in that moment, even though this is what we expected, my heart still just sank. … And then in that moment, Senator Flake came out of his office rushing, walking fast to the elevator. The reporters started running behind him. And my friends started running behind them. And we just ran, and that’s just like the adrenaline of running to catch the senator, who has just told us that the fate of the country is in his hands.

I knew that I needed to grab his attention. … And just the argument that in some ways had been playing in my head over the week that I had been in this fight just came pouring out. And then at some point I paused and then Maria [Gallagher] spoke. … She had never said, “I was sexually assaulted” out loud, she hadn’t told her family, but in that moment, she also allowed instinct and the power and gravity of the moment and the opportunity to take over. And she said, “I was sexually assaulted and nobody believed me, but you’re sending a message to women that we are not believed. You’re allowing someone in power who has assaulted women, you’re allowing someone who’s accused of assaulting women to be in power. What does it take? Look at me.”

Ana Maria Archila is one of two women to confront Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) in an elevator on Sept. 28, 2018, after he announced that he planned to vote to confirm Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
Ana Maria Archila is one of two women to confront Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) in an elevator on Sept. 28, 2018, after he announced that he planned to vote to confirm Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
Jeff Flake

Jeff Flake See bio arrow-right

When the women confronted me, they were saying things that I had been hearing from friends and extended family and all of my colleagues had been hearing as well. This was at the height of the #MeToo time and people were hearing these stories and people were kind of reflecting that and putting all of this on Kavanaugh, for better or worse.

I wasn’t running for reelection. I was leaving. And given the way the president conducted himself, kind of blaming the victim and mocking her, it would’ve been immensely satisfying for me to say, “Hey, no, you can’t get your nominee.” … But I also knew that if we did that, then that would set a horrible precedent, that a mere allegation would be enough to disqualify someone.

Anna Greenberg

Anna Greenberg See bio arrow-right

I was in the field doing polls at that time, and in every race I was working in, there was a jump in Republican enthusiasm and every poll got closer. … You saw more conservative voters kind of shift a little bit away from Democrats.

Whit Ayres

Whit Ayres See bio arrow-right

The Kavanaugh hearings were an incredible Democratic overreach that reminded Republicans who had been resistant to Donald Trump why they were Republicans.

Neera Tanden

Neera Tanden See bio arrow-right

It really enraged suburban women, White college-educated women … and I think it polarized white non-college voters, men and women. … Things Trump does for one really enrages the other.

The midterm election

The 2018 midterm election provided a pivotal moment for the resistance. Democrats lost seats in the Senate but captured 41 Republican-held House seats to gain the majority and make Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) the new speaker. Democrats made earlier Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act a central message in their campaigns. The victories produced the largest class of female lawmakers in history.

 On Jan. 3, 2019, during a partial government shutdown, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is elected House speaker on Capitol Hill. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
On Jan. 3, 2019, during a partial government shutdown, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is elected House speaker on Capitol Hill. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Stephanie Schriock

Stephanie Schriock See bio arrow-right

I told Leader Pelosi … that we were going to take the House back with women, and it was fine that some men won, but we’re going to deliver 23 seats [needed for a majority]. And she was really sweet about it, like, “That’s really nice, Stephanie, thank you for your help. You do everything you can.” I’m like, “I’m serious,” and she’s like, “I can tell.” … I went back to my office and I pulled my senior team and I said, “I just promised Nancy Pelosi we’re delivering the House with 23 seats,” and they wanted to kill me.

Chrissy Houlahan

Chrissy Houlahan See bio arrow-right

I started running kind of informally, probably around February of 2017, and formally declared in April of 2017. So I had in my guest bedroom seven or eight people starting in February of 2017, volunteering for me full time. … I thought that, even if I weren’t [successful], I would have pushed my current congressman to know that people were holding him to account. That was my motivation — to change the conversation and particularly ask about issues. Health care was probably the biggest issue.

Lauren Underwood

Lauren Underwood See bio arrow-right

I had gotten a job working for a Medicaid-managed care plan in Chicago … and I see that Congressman [Randy] Hultgren [who represented a suburban district] was having a town hall. Now, this was big news, because he was not doing public events. I knew I wanted to be there.

[At the meeting], Congressman Hultgren said that he was only going to support a version of repeal [of the Affordable Care Act] that let people with preexisting conditions keep their health-care coverage. I worked on the Affordable Care Act [in the Obama administration] and I have a preexisting condition, so when he said that, I believed him. … When the American Health Care Act came up for a vote two weeks later and he voted for it, I felt betrayed … I could not let it go … and so I decided to run.

Yadira Caraveo

Yadira Caraveo See bio arrow-right

I remember knocking on several doors and they said, “Oh, you’re running for what?” And I said, “State representative,” and they’re like, “Well, you’re a woman, so that’s good for me. You’ve got my vote.”

Beto O’Rourke

Beto O’Rourke See bio arrow-right

I had a meeting in Fort Worth [the day after the inauguration]. … I hear this loud chanting in downtown Fort Worth, and I turned the corner and there’s just a sea of people. Tarrant County, which is where Fort Worth is, at that point was the largest reliably-red urban county in the United States of America. … This is January of 2017. I had begun to think about running for Senate. Everyone told me it was a fool’s errand, or I had a snowball’s chance, and I knew deep in my heart differently, but this definitely verified that feeling.

Democratic women stand and cheer after President Trump recognizes the record number of women serving in 116th Congress, during his State of the Union address before members of Congress at the Capitol on Feb. 5, 2019. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Democratic women stand and cheer after President Trump recognizes the record number of women serving in 116th Congress, during his State of the Union address before members of Congress at the Capitol on Feb. 5, 2019. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Chrissy Houlahan

Chrissy Houlahan See bio arrow-right

I didn’t know anything about this process. … I didn’t know anything about Sabato’s Crystal Ball or the Cook Political Report. And I didn’t know anything about trackers. … I don’t think there was a point until actually having won that I thought that this was going to happen.

Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi See bio arrow-right

People said, “How did health care become the issue?” It became the issue because it was the issue in people’s homes. But we had to elevate it to the issue that was dominant, the determining factor in the election. And I pay tribute to the grass roots for this. Without the outside mobilization, we would not have succeeded in the manner in which we did. Ten thousand events of people telling their story. … We made our own environment.

Gina Raimondo

Gina Raimondo See bio arrow-right

We were doing protest after protest [about health care]. … There was this one defining rally. … We thought we’d get a couple hundred people. It was early on a Sunday morning at a senior center. And when I got there, it was, oh, my God, the place was spilling over. Literally, no joke, a line around the corner of people trying to get in to make their voices heard.

Alisha Hoffman-Mirilovich

Alisha Hoffman-Mirilovich See bio arrow-right

[For] most of us, this was all our first time at any type of organizing or political work on the ground. We were writing postcards to our legislators, we flooded Senator [Patrick J.] Toomey’s office with calls, faxes, letters, postcards over a variety of things from the Affordable Care Act to gun legislation, especially after additional school shootings. It was just an ongoing thing.

Cecile Richards

Cecile Richards See bio arrow-right

Some of [the grass-roots groups] had come out of the Women’s March and they were all called different things. They were, like, “Red Wine & Blue,” which has become a statewide organization in Ohio, and there were, like, the “Badass Babes” from Bay City, and it was like a cottage industry of women who had gotten engaged and wanted to do more. And I thought, wow, if we could actually provide support and shine a light on this, this is so powerful because it isn’t just one group or one issue, it is women everywhere.

Steve Adler

Steve Adler See bio arrow-right

So many new people [were] being involved in politics, in elections. They were bringing fresh ideas and, quite frankly, fresh spirits and souls to the battle.

Rosemary Lawrence

Rosemary Lawrence

Democratic activist in North Carolina and a member of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte.

Every Sunday, someone at Friendship [Missionary Baptist Church] would be standing at the voter registration table, there for somebody to ask a question or get people registered, whatever. We did that every Sunday at Friendship.

Lauren Underwood

Lauren Underwood See bio arrow-right

The ladies of the 14th [Congressional District] were a force to be reckoned with. These women had been running things in the community forever. Every PTA, every neighborhood association, every civic group, they just hadn’t been running for office. But all the organizational skills, very well networked — I mean, the ladies of the 14th knew exactly what to do, they just had not applied it to a political campaign.

Reps. Debbie Dingell (Mich.), Brenda Lawrence (Mich.), Terri A. Sewell (Ala.), Suzanne Bonamici (Ore.) and Sheila Jackson Lee (Tex.) gather for a portrait of the record number of Democratic women in the 116th Congress in front of the Capitol on Jan. 4, 2019. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Reps. Debbie Dingell (Mich.), Brenda Lawrence (Mich.), Terri A. Sewell (Ala.), Suzanne Bonamici (Ore.) and Sheila Jackson Lee (Tex.) gather for a portrait of the record number of Democratic women in the 116th Congress in front of the Capitol on Jan. 4, 2019. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Geoff Garin

Geoff Garin See bio arrow-right

A lot of college-educated women saw Trump as antithetical to their priorities and their values. They saw him consistently acting in ways that demonstrated disrespect for women and women’s role in our society. I think that college-educated women took the tone and the tenor of Donald Trump and his presidency very, very personally.

Abdul El-Sayed

Abdul El-Sayed See bio arrow-right

A lot of it was just a repudiation of Donald Trump. … I think health care obviously was an important issue, but part of it was also just the response to the sheer inhumanity of his presidency to that point. You saw gains up and down the party, left and right in the party, right? So, you had wins for folks like [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley, and then you also had seats that we picked up, like Haley Stevens or Elissa Slotkin here in Michigan.

Ayanna Pressley

Ayanna Pressley See bio arrow-right

[After defeating a longtime Democratic House member in the Massachusetts primary] I remember thinking about the Women’s March and holding those signs that said, “Today we march, tomorrow we run.” … I’m sure people did not believe us. Yet here we were. I felt grateful and I felt hopeful, and on the precipice of something new and awesome and daunting.

During the fall of 2018, Joe Biden campaigned across the country for House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates, and the experience helped shape his thinking about whether and how to challenge the president in 2020.

Mike Donilon

Mike Donilon See bio arrow-right

I think he believed as he traveled the country in terms of the places he was asked to go to, the reception he got when he was there, just kind of his instinctive feel for how he was being received, it said to him that he was more where the party was than the conventional wisdom was saying. The conventional wisdom was that the party had left him, it had moved hard left, it left him behind, he no longer was relevant to this party or this debate, and his experience in 2018 was that that wasn’t true.

Anita Dunn

Anita Dunn

Longtime Democratic strategist who served as White House communications director in the Obama administration. Dunn was a senior adviser on Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.

What he saw in 2018 and what he thought in terms of where the Democratic Party was coming out of the 2018 midterm is underrated in terms of his ultimate decision to be a candidate and his belief that he could win the nomination. … The moral imperative of defeating Donald Trump for him was Charlottesville, and then the political path to defeating Donald Trump and a growing conviction that he would be the best candidate to do that came out of 2018.

The impeachment

On Sept. 24, 2019, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) opened an impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s conduct with Ukraine. After the Russia investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III ended without legal consequence for Trump, dashing the hopes of many of the president’s critics, many of them thought the Ukraine episode could be his undoing.

In her office on Capitol Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) meets with Democratic Reps. Richard E. Neal (Mass.), Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), Carolyn B. Maloney (N.Y.), Maxine Waters (Calif.) and Eliot L. Engel (N.Y.) to discuss the approaching impeachment vote on Dec. 17, 2019. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
In her office on Capitol Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) meets with Democratic Reps. Richard E. Neal (Mass.), Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), Carolyn B. Maloney (N.Y.), Maxine Waters (Calif.) and Eliot L. Engel (N.Y.) to discuss the approaching impeachment vote on Dec. 17, 2019. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Adam B. Schiff

Adam B. Schiff

Democratic congressman from California since 2001, representing the Los Angeles area.

I felt that if the president were trying to extort Ukraine to get help in the presidential election, that would be more egregious than any of his prior conduct, any of the Russia conduct. … And if he were trying to condition his official acts meeting with the president or providing military aid in order to get Ukraine to interfere in our election, that would be impeachable.

Brendan Boyle

Brendan Boyle See bio arrow-right

There were those who obviously wanted to rush and impeach him from Day One. There were others that, once the full Mueller report came out, were convinced, either because of the 12 different instances of obstruction of justice or the potential for collusion and criminal conspiracy. And then finally, though, the Ukraine call, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I mean, it was so egregious and obvious that even those House Democrats who were very uncomfortable with the idea felt like just on principle they had no choice.

Margie Omero

Margie Omero See bio arrow-right

We did some focus groups right before the end of the Mueller investigation where we asked people, “How did you think it was going to end?” “What did you think it was about?” “If Trump did this, or if the investigation found that, what would you think?” But before we started all that, I asked, “Let’s just get a sense of some names here, who you think they are, what you think their jobs are. It’s okay if you don’t know that person. Jim Comey. Robert Mueller.” And half of the people in each of these groups were like, “I don’t know. I think he’s like a lawyer? I’m not totally sure.”

Andrew Weissmann

Andrew Weissmann See bio arrow-right

I think the president is very transactional. It’s very much a question of might makes right, and if he can do it and no one can stop him and it’s in his interest, his personal interest, he’s going to do it. … I just don’t see a respect for the rule of law.

Adam B. Schiff

Adam B. Schiff See bio arrow-right

I felt it very important to demonstrate just how unethical this president is, how indecent he is, how untruthful he is. … That’s where the danger lies with this president.

On Dec. 18, 2019, the Democratic-controlled House voted largely along party lines to impeach Trump, charging him with abuse of office and obstruction of justice. The case then moved to trial in the Republican-controlled Senate.

House Sergeant at Arms Paul D. Irving and House Clerk Cheryl Johnson, along with Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), and Reps. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.), Val Demings (Fla.), Jason Crow (Colo.) and Sylvia Garcia (Tex.), deliver the signed Articles of Impeachment to the Senate floor on Jan. 15. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
House Sergeant at Arms Paul D. Irving and House Clerk Cheryl Johnson, along with Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), and Reps. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.), Val Demings (Fla.), Jason Crow (Colo.) and Sylvia Garcia (Tex.), deliver the signed Articles of Impeachment to the Senate floor on Jan. 15. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Adam B. Schiff

Adam B. Schiff See bio arrow-right

We took the view that we had to try the case to the Senate, but we perhaps more importantly needed to try the case to the American people. We needed to make the case to the public that the president had committed serious abuses of his office and should be removed, that he should be held accountable — and that if he wasn’t held accountable, the senators voting to acquit him should be held accountable.

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney

Republican senator from Utah since 2019. Romney was the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.

From the outset, I knew I did not want to have to serve as a juror in an impeachment trial of the president, because I knew that the consequence of a guilty verdict would be potentially severe, obviously for him but also for me. … It’s fair to say that I leaned toward acquittal through most of the trial. I think that’s the result in part of the human tendency to rationalize what’s in one’s own best interest.

But in the last two or three days of the trial, as I reread the briefs and put together a timeline of the things that were testified by the various witnesses, I recognized in fact that the president was guilty as charged by the House.

I’ve got a little journal here. It’s Friday the 31st [of January 2020]. It says I woke at 4 a.m. I reviewed again the case for each article of impeachment. I was fully convinced that the president was guilty of Article One, but not Article Two. I wrote a speech at the breakfast table that I would deliver about my decision.

On Feb. 5, 2020, the Senate voted largely along party lines to find Trump not guilty, thus acquitting him. Romney was the lone Republican to vote to convict him on abuse of power.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) speaks to journalists on Jan. 29 as he heads to the first day of a question-and-answer session during the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) speaks to journalists on Jan. 29 as he heads to the first day of a question-and-answer session during the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney See bio arrow-right

There were three senators on the floor at the time: Chris Murphy, Brian Schatz and Pat Leahy. And David Perdue was listening. Brian came to me afterward and was emotional and congratulated me. Pat Leahy did the same, and Chris Murphy did later. I then spoke with [wife] Ann. She was very emotional, very supportive and, somewhat surprisingly, all of my sons said they believed I had done the right thing.

I got a call from [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell and he said, “Mitt, you took a difficult vote, but you should know that your colleagues will still welcome you and respect your decision,” which obviously was very encouraging. I later got a call from John Cornyn and he said, “I don’t agree with where you came out,” but he said, “I would not want to be part of any group that was critical of someone who voted their conscience.” Those two comments were very encouraging to me and gave me a great deal of comfort as I wondered what it would be like going back to meet with the Republican caucus.

President Trump holds up a copy of The Washington Post with a headline that reads,
President Trump holds up a copy of The Washington Post with a headline that reads, “Trump acquitted” as he speaks in the East Room at the White House on Feb. 6, 2020. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Jeff Flake

Jeff Flake See bio arrow-right

I jokingly said at one point, “If there were a private vote for impeachment, there’d be 35 Republicans.” And that’s not so much for impeachment, but if people could remove the president, then most of my colleagues would jump in line to do it.

They fear him and his base and know that he can take just about any one of them out. … [But] there’s no love. There’s a lot of fear, but no love.

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney See bio arrow-right

I’ll be in a grocery store and someone will come up and say, “F you! You’re a traitor! RINO! Why are you at the party?” I do get that, and I get it in the grocery store, I get it in the airport. … But from my colleagues, I have not received any browbeating or tongue-lashing.

Whit Ayres

Whit Ayres See bio arrow-right

All [impeachment] did was reinforce existing perceptions of Donald Trump. The people who approved of his job performance before thought it was a sham. The people who disapproved of his job performance before thought the House had clearly and overwhelmingly made their case. And consequently, it had almost no effect.

The Biden nomination

On. Feb. 3, 2020, Joe Biden ran a disappointing fourth in the Iowa caucuses and a poor fifth in the New Hampshire primary eight days later. Many Democrats said he seemed to lack energy and many analysts said he was at risk of losing the party’s nomination to Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) as the campaign moved to Nevada for the Feb. 22 caucuses.

Joe Biden, accompanied by his wife, Jill Biden, speaks to California voters during a Super Tuesday election night party at Baldwin Hills Recreation Center in Los Angeles on March 3, 2020. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Joe Biden, accompanied by his wife, Jill Biden, speaks to California voters during a Super Tuesday election night party at Baldwin Hills Recreation Center in Los Angeles on March 3, 2020. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Anita Dunn

Anita Dunn See bio arrow-right

Jake Sullivan [Biden’s policy director], after Iowa, had developed for us … his four, three, two, one theory, which was fourth in Iowa, third in New Hampshire, second in Nevada, first in South Carolina. And then [after New Hampshire], it became unfortunately a four, five, two, one theory, which didn’t sound as good.

Mike Donilon

Mike Donilon See bio arrow-right

A moment that proved important, I think, was the decision to go from New Hampshire to South Carolina on the day of the [New Hampshire] primary. We met with Biden on the bus actually. We made the case to him … that it’s important for us to get there and start making the case to them that the voters in South Carolina really could have a decisive voice in the party, and maybe just as important or more important, they were a voice that had not yet been heard and should be heard. …

He was reluctant to do it, because he didn’t want to cause bad feelings in New Hampshire.

Rosemary Lawrence

Rosemary Lawrence See bio arrow-right

I had a lot of anxiety, because I didn’t know whether he could pull it out. I mean, he wasn’t showing the passion or even the energy at that time, if you will recall. And there was no clear message coming from him. So, I was looking around.

Stephen K. Benjamin

Stephen K. Benjamin See bio arrow-right

Those people like Joe Biden are never the loudest person in the room, if that makes sense. The noise — and I don’t mean this in a negative way — the loudest voices tend to come from the far right and the far left, and those in the middle are not that. It was tough for him to find his voice.

Anita Dunn

Anita Dunn See bio arrow-right

Our money had basically stopped and we had pulled all of the resources out of all of the Super Tuesday states, deployed all of the staff in the Super Tuesday states [to] Nevada or South Carolina, because there was not going to be a Super Tuesday if we did not win South Carolina.

Mike Donilon

Mike Donilon See bio arrow-right

The conventional wisdom was we were dead. … There was a belief that a second in Nevada could serve as kind of a springboard to South Carolina. Now, I don’t necessarily buy that argument, because I felt for a long time that these were going to be independent judgments [by voters in each state]. … But it certainly helped … with the press that there was a belief that, okay, he got to second, and you gotta at least say he has a pulse.

Terry McAuliffe

Terry McAuliffe See bio arrow-right

I was never concerned about Iowa and New Hampshire, if you go back and re-look at what I said on CNN, they’re two states, they’re great states but they’re all White. That’s not who the Democratic Party is when 95 percent of the African American community and 70 percent of the Hispanic community votes for us. I had always said wait until we get to South Carolina.

Mike Donilon

Mike Donilon See bio arrow-right

Sunday morning [after the Nevada caucuses], we went to a church [in South Carolina]. I remember riding over with Biden and with … Dr. [Jill] Biden. [Pastors] sometimes give you a few minutes at these church services, and he understood immediately that he had to say, “I take nothing for granted and I need to earn your support and I’m going to work harder for it than anybody else.” That was one thing.

The second thing he said was really kind of a sense of empowerment, saying, “You have in your hands the power to pick the nominee of this party and the next president of the United States, and that is in your hands, nobody else’s.” And then I think he said, “And that’s how it should be. The African American community is the backbone and the heart and soul of the party and your voice needs to be heard.”

Anita Dunn

Anita Dunn See bio arrow-right

[Biden] was like, “I’m staying in this state the entire week, I’m campaigning here the entire week, I’m committing here.” You could feel it in the crowds the moment he hit the state and you could feel it just walking down the street that it was a different ballgame from the three previous states.

On Feb. 26, the morning after the Democratic debate in Charleston, S.C., and three days before the primary, Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) gave Biden a full-throated endorsement, with the former vice president at his side.

Joe Biden greets House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) during Clyburn's World Famous Fish Fry event in Columbia, S.C., on June 21, 2019. (Al Drago/Bloomberg News)
Joe Biden greets House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) during Clyburn’s World Famous Fish Fry event in Columbia, S.C., on June 21, 2019. (Al Drago/Bloomberg News)
James E. Clyburn

James E. Clyburn

House majority whip.

Well, it was never going to be anybody but Biden, as far as I was concerned. The question was, should I get publicly involved? And if so, when? … I went to this funeral service on Friday [Feb. 21], before we were going down to Charleston for the Charleston debate, and then this lady, Mrs. Jones — I didn’t know her before — called me over to her with the beckon of her finger and she told me that she needed to know who I was voting for in the primary.

Then she said this: “And if you don’t want anybody to hear, you just lean down and whisper in my ear.” And I did that. What got me was when I said, “I’m going to vote for Joe Biden,” and she snapped her head back, and the look that was on her face, I just can’t explain it. And then she said to me, “I needed to hear that, and the people in this community need to hear from you.” That’s what started me to figure out exactly when and how.

[On the Sunday before the debate], I said [to Biden], “My advice to you is what I got from my daddy, who was a fundamentalist minister who taught me to explain things in threes — the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. He just told me ministers are taught to do it in threes.” And so I told [Biden] that I thought that he should start answering every question with three things. Number one: “Here is what my election will mean for you.” Number two: “Here is what my election will mean for your family.” And number three: “Here is what my election will mean for your community.” I said, “I don’t care what the question is, always answer it with those three things.”

That debate was on that Tuesday night. This was Sunday night. And then I said to him, “Now, I’m going to [endorse] Wednesday morning after the debate, and my emotions will be dictated by how the debate goes. You answer these questions in these three ways, you mention putting a Black woman on the Supreme Court …” — all of which he did.

Anita Dunn

Anita Dunn See bio arrow-right

The Clyburn endorsement, which came the morning after a very strong debate performance, [Biden’s] strongest to date, was a one-two burst of momentum in that state. We started raising money after the debate and the Clyburn endorsement. For the first time in a very long time, we actually had a little money to spend.

[On Feb. 29, the day of the primary], he was coming back from Mass on his way back to the hotel, and I called him to tell him that he was going to win and [that] he would win by a big margin. And of course the polls weren’t closed yet, and he said, “How do you know?” I said, “Well, because we’re hearing it, the networks were going to call this race.” … He was like, “You’re kidding!”

Nina Turner

Nina Turner See bio arrow-right

It was hard, hard as hell. [Bernie Sanders’s campaign] really worked very hard and we were on the ground in South Carolina definitely earlier than we were in 2016. We had so many people, like the Danny Glovers of the world and the Dr. Cornel Wests, who spent an enormous amount of time in that state, kept coming back over and over again. And myself, I practically tried to live in that state. We did have some gains compared to 2016, but the crush that came, that tsunami, the tidal wave that came was definitely disappointing.

Amy Klobuchar

Amy Klobuchar See bio arrow-right

After South Carolina, I’m sitting in that church in Selma [Ala.] and most of the candidates were there. … And that’s when I started to think about it. … I pretty much decided in my mind [to drop out].

I called my husband. He and [daughter] Abigail were going all over the country and he said, “God, I just got this lobsterman in Maine, I just talked to him for half an hour and he’s going to support you.” I go, “I know, but he’ll be okay.” And it felt so bad. I just said, “I just think this is the best thing. I think I can really help. I need to win this way.” So then the next day, I called the Biden people.

Immediately after the South Carolina primary, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg quit the race and endorsed Biden, as did Beto O’Rourke, who had dropped out months earlier. They all converged on Dallas.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), one of Joe Biden's former Democratic primary rivals, endorses the former vice president at a campaign event in Dallas on March 2, 2020. Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), one of Joe Biden’s former Democratic primary rivals, endorses the former vice president at a campaign event in Dallas on March 2, 2020. Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)
Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg See bio arrow-right

The decision to step out was obviously a tough one, but the decision about what to do next really wasn’t. I was aware that time was of the essence. I knew that if I wanted to make a difference, I should act sooner rather than later. And I knew I had a responsibility, too, to signal to my supporters what I thought should happen next. And so there wasn’t a lot of agonizing or back and forth. I slept on it, and woke up feeling the same, and said, “Let’s go for it.” Pretty soon, I was on a plane to Texas.

Beto O’Rourke

Beto O’Rourke See bio arrow-right

I remember watching Joe Biden respond to a question at, I think it was a CNN town hall, South Carolina, before their primary. It was a survivor of the Mother Emanuel AME Church shooting [in Charleston, S.C.] who had lost his wife. Watching Joe Biden listen to him, and then respond, this extraordinary capacity for empathy and connection, compassion and then healing. I said, “That guy has to be our president.”

Mike Donilon

Mike Donilon See bio arrow-right

We had to figure out: Where could we get all these people together and how are we going to do this? Buttigieg would be done at a restaurant before the [Dallas] rally event that night and Klobuchar would be the leadoff person at the event and then Beto was kind of the surprise voice at the end. That’s how it worked.

I just thought it was an extraordinary act of looking out for the party [by the other candidates]. They did kind of set aside their own interest to a degree. Maybe they didn’t think it would last that much longer, but most people try to stretch it out. They made a decision to endorse, and the fact that all of them happened at once added a lot of power.

Anita Dunn

Anita Dunn See bio arrow-right

When I look back at that 72 hours, it doesn’t feel real.

Ed Rendell

Ed Rendell

Pennsylvania governor from 2003 to 2011 and Democratic National Committee chairman from 1999 to 2001.

Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, they all took themselves out of the limelight. They could have dragged it out a little bit more, but they knew what had to be done. And they knew that Joe was the best candidate to win in the general.

Geoff Garin

Geoff Garin See bio arrow-right

This was a nominating contest that was uniquely defined around the question of electability, and no candidate ever seriously challenged Biden in terms of who voters saw as the most electable.

Amy Klobuchar

Amy Klobuchar See bio arrow-right

I endorsed him and then he said, “We’re not going to be able to be in Minnesota [for the upcoming primary], because Bernie won before and you’re ahead.” And I go, “No, no … I’ve got to just say really clearly, ‘Minnesota, vote for Joe Biden!’ ” And that’s what I did. And then we cut a TV commercial that they ran the next morning on the local TV. We did four interviews with the four stations. … I did a bunch of radio interviews at home. And then he won. In politics, you rarely end a campaign feeling so satisfied, [like] you contributed to the case. But I felt that I did.

Andrew Yang

Andrew Yang

Businessman who sought the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Yang is now a CNN political commentator.

Joe reached out to me and asked for my endorsement prior to Super Tuesday, and I told him that I wanted to let the process play out. And then on [March 11], it hit me that Joe was going to be the nominee based upon the results of that night, and that we should unify behind him as quickly as possible. I also realized that I had a [CNN] TV camera on me. … So I said to Anderson Cooper, who was seated like two people to my left, I was like, “Hey, Anderson, can you send it to me after the break? I’m gonna endorse Joe.” That’s really the way it went.

On Super Tuesday (March 3), with the field of candidates shrunken, Biden scored a sweeping victory that set him on the course to end the nomination contest within weeks, just as the coronavirus pandemic was shutting down the campaigns. Former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg immediately left the race, and after another round of contests, Sanders and his supporters knew the race was over. The senator from Vermont formally suspended his candidacy on April 8.

A crowd listens to Joe Biden speak at a Super Tuesday election night party at Baldwin Hills Recreation Center in Los Angeles on March 3, 2020. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
A crowd listens to Joe Biden speak at a Super Tuesday election night party at Baldwin Hills Recreation Center in Los Angeles on March 3, 2020. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Ro Khanna

Ro Khanna See bio arrow-right

Bernie was doing very, very well, up until South Carolina. And I would say most people would say Warren was number three. I think what Biden won on is to his credit, his deep ties with the African American community and particularly the Black South. I think what he showed is you can’t win a Democratic nomination without strong support from the Black community, and particularly from the Black South.

Pramila Jayapal

Pramila Jayapal See bio arrow-right

All of a sudden, it was clear [Sanders] was not going to be the nominee, and he was not going to be able to get it. And he called me to talk about what he should do and what he was thinking about doing. And so I knew that he was going to step down from the primary and suspend his campaign. And yet, here was this pandemic with the fact that so many people in the country didn’t have health care. … And here was our candidate who ran on health care for everyone suspending his campaign.

Abdul El-Sayed

Abdul El-Sayed See bio arrow-right

I think the senator will be proven to have been well ahead of his time. He has brought a public conversation about basic, frankly obvious, public policy that will seem obvious when we finally enact. … I think that in the future, the generation of voters that are growing into the majority of voters, I just think that they’re going to be a lot more aggressive about policies that truly deliver real public goods for people.

Peter Hart

Peter Hart

Longtime Democratic pollster and focus group moderator who has closely monitored the U.S. electorate for decades.

Joe Biden was a weak candidate from Day One. He was accorded the nomination. He never won the nomination. The primaries were stopped as coronavirus hit. … I could hear those problems in the focus groups. You could hear the sense of, “He’s a nice man, but what does he want to do?” There wasn’t an agenda. The agenda wasn’t tomorrow. The agenda wasn’t a sense of the vision. It was a campaign built not to lose rather than a campaign to persuade.

Cameron Kasky

Cameron Kasky See bio arrow-right

This is where the Democrats lose young people. The Democrats mock Bernie. They mock his ideas, they mock progressives and they treat progressives like they are the enemy.

You see all this enthusiasm about defeating Trump, which there should be, but you don’t see a lot of enthusiasm about Biden. And you see a ton about Trump from the right. And I was always wondering: The right loves Trump; why can’t we love Biden?

The coronavirus pandemic

The novel coronavirus that first broke out in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, quickly spread through Asia, Europe and eventually the United States, where the first case was reported on Jan. 20, 2020. A pandemic soon was declared, and by the second week of March, with community spread surging, many states closed businesses, schools and other gathering places.

Elder Yolanda Flowers watches pallbearers carry the casket of her father, the Rev. James Flowers, 84, who died of covid-19, to his grave at a cemetery in Landover, Md., on April 13, 2020. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
Elder Yolanda Flowers watches pallbearers carry the casket of her father, the Rev. James Flowers, 84, who died of covid-19, to his grave at a cemetery in Landover, Md., on April 13, 2020. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
Nahid Bhadelia

Nahid Bhadelia

Infectious-diseases physician and medical director of the special pathogens unit at Boston University School of Medicine.

I remember starting to see in December and January the reports of the growing number of people who were getting sick in Wuhan. I shared it with my staff. I remember sending an email and saying, “So far, we’re hearing that this is not human-to-human contact, but this is a lot of people who are, like, getting sick. So I’m just putting this on your radar.”

Olivia Troye

Olivia Troye

A former homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to Vice President Pence and an aide to the White House coronavirus task force.

I started working on covid since January, prior to the vice president even leading the task force, because it was still under my purview as the homeland security adviser to track any potential threats to the homeland. And so we were following this virus closely as it continued to spread in Wuhan, and we were concerned. At the time, though, I assumed that the president would take this very seriously.

Anita Dunn

Anita Dunn See bio arrow-right

[Biden] started growing concerned about covid in January, based on the briefings he was getting from his national security team. His role from Day One as someone who has been in public service and has respect for experts was that we would have the public health experts guide our decisions.

Ezekiel Emanuel

Ezekiel Emanuel

Oncologist who advises the World Health Organization and serves as vice provost for global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania.

[Trump] and I had spoken, and I made some recommendations to him about things he ought to be doing and thinking about, sort of in the end of the third week of February, I think, and I wrote out for him a memo of, here are 10 things you ought to do — holding the daily press conferences updating everyone on where it is and what the government is doing, appointing a czar, bringing Tony Fauci in, because he’s the world’s leading expert on infectious disease, he’s had a lot of experience with H1N1 plus AIDS and how to handle it. There were a bunch of different things I recommended, including you should meet with, or certainly have a very open call with, the head of the World Health Organization, because this is a global pandemic.

He totally rejected it, just wasn’t interested. He wasn’t even curious about: Well, why are you thinking this? What about these considerations? What about that? And it became clear to me that he was not processing information. He wasn’t very interested in the big question of what to do, how big to go.

Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, and Anthony S. Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listen as President Trump speaks with the coronavirus task force at a briefing at the White House on March 20, 2020. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, and Anthony S. Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listen as President Trump speaks with the coronavirus task force at a briefing at the White House on March 20, 2020. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Olivia Troye

Olivia Troye See bio arrow-right

Time is of the essence. Every moment mattered as we saw it starting to spread. … At the very onset, I’ll never forget when the president, I think publicly, starts to change the narrative on it and called it a Democratic “hoax,” I believe, a hoax from the Democrats. And that, I think, was a moment that gave all of us pause, because this was not something to be joked about and taken lightly.

Steve Adler

Steve Adler See bio arrow-right

I knew that if we were going to cancel South by Southwest [festival in Austin], we would be causing huge injury to so many people and so many businesses. The repercussion was going to be extreme. Little did I know just how much. But in watching the virus as it moved across the world, it was clear, and talking to mayors in cities across the world, that this thing was coming and it would come faster than we would anticipate. There was really no choice, but yet the decision was horrific.

Anita Dunn

Anita Dunn See bio arrow-right

Both the Sanders campaign and the Biden campaign were planning to have their March 10 election night rallies in Ohio, a March 17 [primary] state. [Sanders adviser] Jeff Weaver and I started communicating, with a cone of silence and trust, that week around campaigning and what we were hearing from our outside advisers. And so by the time [Ohio Gov.] Mike DeWine on Tuesday afternoon, March 10, said that he didn’t want those rallies happening, we were very prepared for that. Both Weaver and I had made a decision that we would pull down things together, that nobody was going to move in front of the other one.

We knew that we had to think about a way for [Biden] to continue campaigning from his house and put in place a plan to build a studio, a television studio, there. … We were going to stay within the CDC guidelines, we were going to stay within the local public health guidelines, because our area of the country where the vice president lives was one of the early surge areas. Both Pennsylvania and Delaware greatly restricted anything we could do.

Alisha Hoffman-Mirilovich

Alisha Hoffman-Mirilovich See bio arrow-right

We had this great plan of how we were going to engage our voters, because knocking on doors works. We believe in following the research, and the research shows that the most effective ways are relational organizing, so talking to people you know and also going out and actually knocking on doors. But clearly with covid, that all changed.

Robert P. Casey Jr.

Robert P. Casey Jr. See bio arrow-right

Just watching and reading about the way families were interacting from a distance, the distance of, whatever, a window pane, it’s a quarter-inch window pane, or much more significant distance. But the gravity of it began to mount.

Olivia Troye

Olivia Troye See bio arrow-right

[Trump] was upset. He was angry that it was going to have an impact on the economy, and he was angry because it was an election year and he felt that it played poorly against his pro-jobs and pro-economy narrative. He was angry that it was affecting the stock markets. But really, the focus should have been on the protection and security of Americans.

Anita Dunn

Anita Dunn See bio arrow-right

It was not a time when anyone wanted to hear about politics. People were scared. … They didn’t need to see Joe Biden out there campaigning.

Nahid Bhadelia

Nahid Bhadelia See bio arrow-right

I think the thing that made me realize that this is going to hit us hard is this recognition of how limited that testing was. I literally was having these conversations with everybody that I could think of about how we could even get a handle on how widespread this is if we can’t test anybody who hasn’t had a travel history. … Not only have we potentially lost time, but we have no eyes on the ground to get a sense of how bad this might already be.

Ezekiel Emanuel

Ezekiel Emanuel See bio arrow-right

The testing problem, [Trump] handed it to [son-in-law] Jared [Kushner], and the moment he did that, I was like, there is just no chance in hell they’re going to be able to respond to this appropriately. Jared has no experience in this.

Hospital workers help Marya Chaisson, left, a pulmonary critical care physician, move Jose Vasquez, 28, from the covid-19 unit to the intensive care unit at Griffin Hospital in Derby, Conn., on May 5, 2020. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)
Hospital workers help Marya Chaisson, left, a pulmonary critical care physician, move Jose Vasquez, 28, from the covid-19 unit to the intensive care unit at Griffin Hospital in Derby, Conn., on May 5, 2020. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

Gina Raimondo

Gina Raimondo See bio arrow-right

[The governors] have weekly conference calls with the White House. And even on those phone calls, which were closed to the press, the president was seeming to me to be largely indifferent to people suffering. And it was always stunning to me on these phone calls that he would comment on who he saw, which governors he saw, on cable news recently and who was saying nice things about him and who wasn’t saying nice things about him. … We governors would get on these calls looking for substantive discussion and looking for help, and what we were met with was, “Hey, so-and-so, I saw you last night on Fox News saying good things about me. Great job.”

Rebekah Jones

Rebekah Jones

Geographic information system analyst at the Florida Health Department until she was fired in May after alleging that the state urged her to align her scientific findings with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’s push to reopen businesses.

It obviously wasn’t President Trump calling me and saying, “No, you can’t do this,” but our governor [in Florida] absolutely did follow the messaging that the White House was sending out, and there were a lot of very sketchy things going on very early on in the response.

Honestly, it starts slowly and you don’t really notice the impact it’s having at first. You’re asked to change how you calculate a number. That action in itself doesn’t seem so egregious, but then there’s another little change, and another little change, and it amounts to a picture that is completely departed from reality. And it’s all for a singular purpose, which at that point was to open up the state or to make people believe that it was safe to open up the state.

That, to me, was a violation of this unspoken oath that we as scientists take, regardless of how people interpret or use our data, to ensure that the data that we submit or we publish is right, or as right as it can be at least.

Gina Raimondo

Gina Raimondo See bio arrow-right

I remember on a call [with governors] early on, I don’t know if it was the first, second, third, fourth or fifth phone call with the president, but he basically said, “Look, guys, we’re going to let you take the lead on this. We’re not stocking clerks. We’re not doing inventory. We’ll support you. Whatever you do is your call. You decide. You make the decisions. We’re not going to second-guess you.” And I just got a pit in my stomach really at that moment. Like, wow, we’re really on our own here.

Olivia Troye

Olivia Troye See bio arrow-right

We were sitting behind the [White House] press briefing room and I’m watching this develop, and [Trump] basically recommends, or he makes claims that people should go inject themselves with bleach. Think about that, though. Think about watching the president at a press briefing suggest on national TV during a serious pandemic crisis that people inject themselves with bleach and they’ll become immune to the virus and that’ll take care of it. I mean, the fact that that even came out of his mouth in any way is so egregious. I remember walking away from that moment and thinking, tonight there is going to be some family probably somewhere who’s going to, because they believe everything that he says.

Ezekiel Emanuel

Ezekiel Emanuel See bio arrow-right

You literally know this guy is in la-la land. … Someone said to me, “It’s like a scene from ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ ” here. I was like, “Hmm, right!”

Margie Omero

Margie Omero See bio arrow-right

We asked [in a survey], “What you’ve been hearing about Trump has been positive or negative?” And people more often say negative than positive. And then we say, “Well, what is it?” And “bleach” loomed large. We have an open end. And “bleach” is big, like in a word cloud. It just shows like this is somebody who doesn’t have the command of the facts.

Anita Dunn

Anita Dunn See bio arrow-right

We got a lot of criticism from friends and foes, but a lot from friends who felt that we were making a huge mistake by leaving the playing field to Trump. A lot of people who freaked out about Trump doing the daily briefings … people who fundamentally misunderstood that it did not matter how many daily briefings Donald Trump did if he actually wasn’t doing what a president should do, like fixing the problem. To Joe Biden’s great credit, he understood from the beginning that this wasn’t something the White House would be able to spin their way out of.

The George Floyd killing

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died while in the custody of Minneapolis police. An eight-minute, 46-second video showed him gasping for breath while a police officer kept a knee pressed on his neck. The killing provoked national outrage and massive demonstrations nationwide against police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The four officers involved were later indicted.

Thousands of peaceful protesters gather on June 5 at the site in Minneapolis where George Floyd, 46, a Black man, died in police custody. The killing provoked outrage and massive demonstrations nationwide. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)
Thousands of peaceful protesters gather on June 5 at the site in Minneapolis where George Floyd, 46, a Black man, died in police custody. The killing provoked outrage and massive demonstrations nationwide. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)
Jesse Jackson

Jesse Jackson See bio arrow-right

Truthfully, I was numb. … His dying in real time touched the base humanity of the American people across lines of race, religion and gender in a way we’ve never seen before. … We were [in Minnesota] after he was killed. … Met with this county prosecutor. He said, “Well, it’s difficult to prosecute police.” … And [Minnesota Attorney General] Keith Ellison took over and they’re indicted the very next day.

Susan Bro

Susan Bro See bio arrow-right

When that series of deaths — with Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd — all started happening, I sat at my computer just livid, shaking with rage, saying, “This could have all been avoided if y’all had listened three years ago [after Charlottesville].” But nobody was paying attention. … People say, “Well, this all started — ” and I’m like, “No, no, no. This has never stopped. This is from back in slavery, this has all been going on.”

Tammy Duckworth

Tammy Duckworth See bio arrow-right

I think about Sandra Bland from Illinois, who died in a Texas jail because she had no one in her life that she could call to come up with, I think it was $500 in cash bail, and that’s when I really understood the structural inequities that make it impossible for Black Americans to be treated equally under the law. … I’m Asian, and we talk about it, but at the end of the day, my racial background and my family history does not endanger my child’s life the way a Black mother’s background endangers her children’s life.

Jesse Jackson

Jesse Jackson See bio arrow-right

I’ve watched, of course, these movements. We were in the ’60s, fighting against Jim Crow and for the anti-lynching laws. And [there was] the multiracial March on Washington [in 1963]. But we never had a movement as sustained, as multicultural or multiracial as the Black Lives Matter movement has been. There were towns where no Blacks live in the town, but the Whites marched for Black Lives Matter.

Steve Adler

Steve Adler See bio arrow-right

Black Lives Matter is not only for the Black community, but the larger community stepping up to say these disparities exist. … This was people from all over our community standing up and wanting to be counted and demanding that we start actually atoning for and changing the systemic inequities, the institutional racism, that exists in all aspects of our lives.

Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg See bio arrow-right

[Black Lives Matter] has refocused the Democratic Party on how we need to insist that there’s no contradiction between being for the kinds of kitchen-table concerns that sometimes are pitted against racial justice. … We need to recognize that this is part of one picture. … Not just the intrinsic moral urgency, the struggle against systemic racism, but also the political reckoning that says that we have to be the party of all of these things, because you can’t separate them.

Debbie Dingell

Debbie Dingell See bio arrow-right

We went to Allen Park City Hall [in Michigan]. That was the first time I laid on the ground, which I did with all the kids. … But the police chief gave the most powerful speech there and at the end told everybody, “If you care about what’s happening, if you care about what’s happening in your country, there are four letters: V-O-T-E.” And that was more powerful than anything somebody like me could ever say.

The clearing of Lafayette Square

On June 1, 2020, thousands of people were gathered in Lafayette Square across from the White House, continuing days of protests after the killing of George Floyd. Suddenly, a phalanx of police and law enforcement officers began to sweep the area clear of demonstrators, using gas and rubber bullets. Moments later, President Trump and members of his administration walked across the park to St. John’s Church, where the president held up a Bible for the cameras.

Police and law enforcement officials use gas and rubber bullets to clear demonstrators from Lafayette Square across from the White House on June 1, 2020, ahead of a photo op by President Trump in front of St. John's Church. (Evelyn Hockstein for The Washington Post)
Police and law enforcement officials use gas and rubber bullets to clear demonstrators from Lafayette Square across from the White House on June 1, 2020, ahead of a photo op by President Trump in front of St. John’s Church. (Evelyn Hockstein for The Washington Post)
Gini Gerbasi

Gini Gerbasi See bio arrow-right

Sometime around 6:15 [p.m.], there was this palpable energy shift. … I could suddenly see police officers, whereas before I couldn’t. And there are more and more of them and there’s this anxiousness in the air. And then, literally in an instant, it went from super peaceful and nothing’s going on … to the air was just crackling with something as the police were piling up. And suddenly, there were screams and explosions …

I looked up and saw a smoky trail coming from the park out to the street, and then just billowing smoke from that. We’re seeing people starting to run toward us, and running toward us with their faces just red and their eyes burning. And suddenly Julia [Domenick, a seminarian] and I and the Black Lives medic are washing out people’s eyes.

The police on horseback, they’re driving people down. Tear gas. It’s like a war scene, right? People are running and screaming. … Then Julia, the seminarian, texted me and said, “Did we just get f—ing tear gas for a f—ing photo op?” And I burst into tears. It answered all the questions.

The apocalypse. People tend to think it means the end of the world or the zombies are coming. But the word “apocalypse” means an unveiling, a revealing. … And that is what happened there. People of faith everywhere were able to see.

Tim Miller

Tim Miller See bio arrow-right

There were these compounding crises. George Floyd happened on top of covid. It gave a lot of former Trump voters a sense of unease about whether he’s up for this job. And the George Floyd thing popped much more in focus groups and in polls. I asked around to other people doing research as well, if they were seeing the same thing. And it was universal that the voters who were the most gettable were the ones who were just offended by Trump’s response on race.

The ‘law and order’ president

Before crossing Lafayette Square on his way to the church, President Trump spoke in the Rose Garden, raising the specter of violent protests as a threat to the nation’s security, claiming that he was the “law and order” president. It was a theme he returned to repeatedly throughout the summer.

A White House staff member gestures to reporters to move back as President Trump walks between lines of riot police for a photo op at St. John's Church across from the White House on June 1, 2020, during ongoing protests over racial inequality after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)
A White House staff member gestures to reporters to move back as President Trump walks between lines of riot police for a photo op at St. John’s Church across from the White House on June 1, 2020, during ongoing protests over racial inequality after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)
Kate Brown

Kate Brown See bio arrow-right

One battle I knew I had to fight was when Trump’s troops came to Portland, when they invaded. … It was after he [Trump] told the governors on a call … that we need to dominate the streets, that we need to send our National Guard in. Right? So he was looking for an opportunity. And it was a clear move to score political points with his base. … There was no call to me or the mayor ahead of time. There was no ask [of], “What kind of help do you need?”

Gini Gerbasi

Gini Gerbasi See bio arrow-right

[“Law and order”] is a phrase that has nothing to do with justice. Justice is about people feeling settled. People feeling like there’s an agreed-upon set of rules and they have been fairly applied as best we can do as human beings. Law and order is about power. And it is about keeping power.

Whit Ayres

Whit Ayres See bio arrow-right

If you ask Republican primary voters or Republican voters today, “What do you think is a greater threat to the country: the pandemic and its effects or violent riots in our cities?”, overwhelmingly today Republicans will say the violent riots are a greater threat to the country than the pandemic, because Trump said so. The problem is that obviously Democrats disagree, but so do independents.

Debbie Dingell

Debbie Dingell See bio arrow-right

I remember for John’s [her late husband, former congressman John Dingell] birthday, I went down to the wildlife refuge just to walk around it. … I counted 100 Blue Lives Matter signs and I said to the Biden campaign that day and to my colleagues, “This is going to be an issue, and if we don’t handle it right, it is going to be the wedge issue for us this year.” … I blew up at the campaign and I said, “You’re losing this. …” I felt like we were losing Michigan watching it. But they did address it that weekend.

The virus spreads

The summer of 2020 produced a surge in coronavirus cases and deaths coast to coast, with especially pronounced spikes in a trio of states led by Republican governors who had heeded President Trump’s calls to reopen businesses and other gathering places: Arizona, Florida and Texas. Trump, meanwhile, flouted public health guidelines and feuded with medical experts as his administration struggled to gain control of the virus.

Supporters — most of them not wearing masks during the coronavirus pandemic — await President Trump’s arrival at a Make America Great Again rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020, in Tulsa. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Supporters — most of them not wearing masks during the coronavirus pandemic — await President Trump’s arrival at a Make America Great Again rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020, in Tulsa. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Robert P. Casey Jr.

Robert P. Casey Jr. See bio arrow-right

We found that in the months of July and August, 11 nursing home residents died every hour. It’s just staggering. There are just multiple failures on covid, but you would think that on this one, [Trump] would say … even for his own political benefit, “We are not going to allow this number to get any bigger. I am taking personal charge of this mission. And we’re going to meet on this every single day.”

Nahid Bhadelia

Nahid Bhadelia See bio arrow-right

The White House’s strategy has been to put out those guidelines, but they let every state do their “choose-your-own-adventure” response to the pandemic, which doesn’t work when we’re all connected, and state borders don’t really mean anything. There needed to be, from the beginning, a lot better coordination in terms of movement of resources, in terms of eyes on the ground, in terms of understanding of and projection of what might be needed.

Jesse Jackson

Jesse Jackson See bio arrow-right

We were decrying Black and Brown disparities. It was ignored, as if we were crying wolf or something. The first pandemic studies showed Black and Brown [people] were dying disproportionately, right? This is because people with chronic conditions had to social distance at home. You can’t social distance on the bus, or the subway. People working in jails can’t social distance in the jails, the hospitals. … It’s clear that Black and Brown people have less access to health care, to capital, to jobs and to further education. What the pandemic has done is made that more graphic.

Abdul El-Sayed

Abdul El-Sayed See bio arrow-right

Rampant, systemic discrimination. Inequities in basic access to things that people fundamentally need in their lives, like housing and health care. That left these massive inequities and a terrible pandemic on the docket.

Gini Gerbasi

Gini Gerbasi See bio arrow-right

Before, we just maybe saw it dimly. We suddenly now see it fully. [Trump is] showing us his callous disregard for other people — his complete focus only on himself and his reelection, his ignorance and his not being at all troubled by his ignorance, his bullying, his disregard of people who are poor or even middle class, anyone. The people he considers losers. It’s disgusting.

Olivia Troye

Olivia Troye See bio arrow-right

The closer the election got, the harder it became to overcome a lot of the political dynamics. And I was watching a lot of them. Data being manipulated behind the scenes. I was watching the politicizing of CDC guidances. Really, our public health community should never be politicized. It is a detriment to do that and to undermine the credibility of organizations such as the CDC and the FDA. And I think as the election gets closer, all of these things start to build, and I realize I’m no longer able to counter this political dynamic. … I just morally said, “I can no longer do this. I can no longer serve in good faith.” And so, I eventually walked away from it. I resigned, and it was hard.

I never saw myself as the resistance. I never behaved in whatever “deep state” narrative they think was happening behind the scenes. I did my job in a very dedicated way, which is why I have said, “There’s no way that you’re not complicit to a certain extent when you’re a part of this operation, because there are policies that are happening, that you were only going to be able to impact to a certain extent, and some of it will be out of your hands. And you’re going to have to figure out how you morally come to terms with it, which is something that I had to figure out every single day.”

Rebekah Jones

Rebekah Jones See bio arrow-right

Even given everything that had happened to [Trump] before February of 2020, coronavirus was an opportunity. The crisis was an opportunity for him to rise above it all in a way that many governors did across the country, both Democrats and Republicans, and to really be the leader of the nation. … Trump’s instinct was to do the exact opposite.

Margie Omero

Margie Omero See bio arrow-right

[Trump] had been underwater [in his approval rating] since Day One, so it’s not like he was falling from some great heights. So he was always in tough shape. But he had a very brief rally around the flag [at the start of the pandemic] that ended immediately. His pandemic approval rating has always been challenging. People trust their governors more than they trust him. And they trust Dr. Fauci more than they trust him. They trust Joe Biden more than they trust him. He hasn’t been able to turn that around in any way.

Early in the morning on Oct. 2, President Trump announced that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus, part of a White House outbreak that infected a few dozen officials, including some of the president’s closest advisers. Trump was hospitalized for four days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where he received experimental therapeutics.

President Trump watches Marine One from the Truman Balcony as he returns to the White House on Oct. 5, 2020, after being treated for covid-19 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
President Trump watches Marine One from the Truman Balcony as he returns to the White House on Oct. 5, 2020, after being treated for covid-19 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Andrew Yang

Andrew Yang See bio arrow-right

I was downstairs and Ken Jeong, actually, the celebrity [and doctor], texted me, saying, “Hey, I think Trump has coronavirus.” And he had, like, a whole set of clues that he was following. … “Sorry to speculate, I just had to get this off my chest.” So he sends me this — and then he sends me Trump’s tweet as soon as it comes out, and then I respond, “Holy s—.” And then he says, “I knew it!” And I say, “You called it!” And then I went upstairs to wake up my wife and say, “Trump has covid.” I just woke her up. It was maybe 1 in the morning.

Nahid Bhadelia

Nahid Bhadelia See bio arrow-right

The guard was let down around the White House about the transmission of this disease. It didn’t surprise me. It was super disappointing. It was very disappointing, the extent of the dysfunction of the U.S. response of the pandemic when you can’t even protect the president of the United States from this disease. Hearing it, I was actually wanting him to go to the hospital [to get care].

Olivia Troye

Olivia Troye See bio arrow-right

[Trump] has shown very transparently his lack of empathy and his complete disregard for anybody else but himself. And he showed it to us completely when he himself got covid and did that terrible display when he, one, goes on a joyride, parading around and put the Secret Service at risk, but then also is released — fortunately for him, who had access to everything out there as a therapeutic and everything possible to help him recover from this as soon as possible, access to medicines and therapeutics that the average American is not going to have access to. And then to come back to the White House and be so cavalier and take the mask off and claim immunity, or claim that it was a “blessing” that he got it. All of that, I think playing out so publicly, I think it gives people pause, and they really have to understand, this guy doesn’t care about any of us.

Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg See bio arrow-right

I remember conversations with conservative friends early in the Trump term when they would say things like, “Yeah, we don’t like him either, but it doesn’t actually matter that much who’s president.” Or, “Yeah, we don’t think much of him, but it’s actually very hard to sink a ship, and we’ll be okay.” And what the pandemic revealed is just how much it matters who is in charge, to the tune of, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of lives. … I think it was a tipping-point condition for a lot of people.

Amy Klobuchar

Amy Klobuchar See bio arrow-right

It actually reminds me of 2006, when I ran for Senate. Remember when we took back the Senate? … People would come up to me and say, “You know, I don’t agree with you on everything.” And sometimes it would be [abortion] choice issues and they would actually say it. They’d go, “But I’m voting for you, because of what [President George W.] Bush has done with the Iraq War.” And they said, “You know, my neighbor died, who’s in the National Guard.” It happened all the time. And that’s what this reminds me of, that people who maybe don’t agree with Biden on everything and are a lot of suburban moms and they’re just like, “I can’t handle this anymore. I can’t. This is wrong.” It’s fundamentally personal to them. And that is an expansion of a resistance that isn’t just about fuzzy issues. It’s about their own personal experiences.

Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi See bio arrow-right

The pandemic has, shall we say, badly sealed the deal, because there was an opportunity for [Trump] to emerge as somebody who cared about our country, cared about the education of our children going to school, cared about the health of all Americans, cared about our economy.

I don’t think it led to the uprising of women. Women knew earlier on than the pandemic. But what he did was miss an opportunity to maybe win some people back by showing that he gave a damn about the American people. But instead he proved … that he did not, and that sealed the deal with the women.

The election

Election Day arrived with 100 million people already having voted, and turnout would eventually hit a historic high. Biden supporters, still spooked by 2016, began the day hopeful but nervous. Trump loyalists believed that the president’s energetic final campaigning had shifted the momentum in his favor. Election night became election week as Americans waited for the race to be called.

Brandon Cousins tries to entertain his 3-year-old daughter, Isabelle, as he and his wife wait in line to vote along with hundreds of others at the Cranberry Highlands Golf Course in Cranberry, Pa., on Nov. 3. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)
Brandon Cousins tries to entertain his 3-year-old daughter, Isabelle, as he and his wife wait in line to vote along with hundreds of others at the Cranberry Highlands Golf Course in Cranberry, Pa., on Nov. 3. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

Tania Chavez

Tania Chavez See bio arrow-right

The day was heavy, the day was really heavy. … Oh, my God, I’m gonna cry now. … There’s a lot at stake for our community, for our livelihood, for the work they put in. I don’t know if I can do this for four more years. It just feels like I’m in the body of an 80-year-old lady. And I’m only 35.

Ayanna Pressley

Ayanna Pressley See bio arrow-right

It is intensely and deeply personal anytime somebody is casting a ballot, but I think in this moment, your ballot is going to the resistance of a corrupt and cruel administration, and an affirmation of all of those things that led us to the Women’s March, protests around the Kavanaugh hearing — all of it that we’re standing up for in the midst of the vitriol and the hateful rhetoric coming from Donald Trump.

Jeff Flake

Jeff Flake See bio arrow-right

Decency won. This wasn’t a repudiation of conservatism, given what’s happened in the Senate and House, but it was a repudiation of Trumpism, at least. I hope this is remembered in Republican circles later on as a bad detour and we can get back to the principles that can win a broad constituency. But I don’t know if they will.

Olivia Troye

Olivia Troye See bio arrow-right

This is too close for comfort for me, to be honest. It’s upsetting. I think it says a lot about where we are in terms of the divisiveness and rhetoric. This is Trumpism taking hold across our society. But for those of us standing up against this, it’s up to us to help Biden unify the country.

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney See bio arrow-right

People asked me, “Are you going to vote for President Trump?” And I said, “I voted to remove him from office. Doesn’t that tell you anything? How in the world can I possibly vote for President Trump having voted to remove him from office?”

Cecile Richards

Cecile Richards See bio arrow-right

What I believed after the [2018] election was that women were going to be the route back to some semblance of normalcy and democracy, and that has actually been the case. What I see is what’s happened in the Women’s March kept going as we’ve talked about in all these different fights over myriad issues.

Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi See bio arrow-right

A four-year campaign to deny him a second term? No, I don’t see it that way. He had a four-year campaign to deny himself a second term. … He showed that he had no interest in [finding common cause with Democrats], and so it was imperative that we win the House. And when we won the House, quite frankly, we created a path to winning the White House.

Brendan Boyle

Brendan Boyle See bio arrow-right

I have to say, it’s kind of an emotional moment. I endorsed Joe from literally his first day as a candidate 18 months ago and was out there campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire and had a number of folks who were certainly doubters, asking me if I was doing the right thing. To go through that, and how difficult this year has been, and it’s my home city [of Philadelphia] putting him over the top, it’s powerful.

Ed Rendell

Ed Rendell See bio arrow-right

For Pennsylvania to put Joe over the top, it feels really gratifying. But everyone, including myself, underestimated the strength of Donald Trump’s message to his supporters. I thought Joe would do five to 10 [percentage] points better in red counties than Hillary did — and in a few, he did. But in most Trump counties, Trump won. You’ve got to give the devil his due.

Rosemary Lawrence

Rosemary Lawrence See bio arrow-right

We should have really destroyed [Trump], because that’s basically what he’s done to our democracy. So, this should have been a repudiation of everything that he represents. And with 60 percent of the voters coming out — more than any that have come out in a century voting — and then it’s a squeaker, barely eking it out for Biden, that shows me that we have a lot of selfish people out there who are voting for themselves.

Gini Gerbasi

Gini Gerbasi See bio arrow-right

I had disgusted fits that so many Americans voted for him again, that so many people saw him do hateful things … and said, “Yeah, I want four more years of that.” I’m appalled.

Debbie Dingell

Debbie Dingell See bio arrow-right

Two weeks before the election, I got surrounded by a Trump caravan. We were getting ready to do a canvas launch in Brownstown, Michigan, and they were playing Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to Be an American,” and a lot of people got scared. There was a Joe Biden mask with bullet holes and blood. But I didn’t run away from them. I talked to them. I told them I was proud to be an American, too. They said, “We’d never vote for you,” and I said, “That’s okay. That’s what America is. You can vote for whoever you want. That’s why we have elections.”

Geoff Garin

Geoff Garin See bio arrow-right

Trump’s grievances strike a chord with a substantial part of the White electorate. And at the end of the day, you know that those grievances matter more to them than Trump’s personal failings, and even his failing on coronavirus. In order to have had a repudiation, you needed to have a less polarized electorate than the one we have. But that is a future project for a different election.

Nina Turner

Nina Turner See bio arrow-right

Democrats should have blown this out of the water. … To move forward, we have to reflect on that. Some real deep, not superficial, effort and energy is needed to move this nation forward. Donald J. Trump won an extraordinary number of votes, and we can’t discount the people who voted for him.

Peter Hart

Peter Hart See bio arrow-right

Biden’s weakness essentially was that he was a comfortable cousin in the family. What that meant is that there was never the sense of close attachment. He was no harm, no foul, versus somebody you chose to visit and have a real relationship with.

Constance Paige Young

Constance Paige Young See bio arrow-right

I’m not thrilled that [Biden is] going to be my president, if I’m going to be completely honest. I think that getting Trump out of the White House is a priority, because we need to stop the bleeding at this point, but Biden isn’t a real progressive, and he certainly didn’t earn my vote. He only got my vote because he isn’t Trump.

Anita Dunn

Anita Dunn See bio arrow-right

When Biden got in the race and people were critical of his message and they said, “Oh, it’s not about Donald Trump. It’s got to be about the future of the Democratic Party, and it’s about this issue or that issue,” it’s always been about Donald Trump since the day after his inauguration.

Andrew Yang

Andrew Yang See bio arrow-right

Many of the people that voted for Donald Trump have grown to mistrust the press, polling, public health guidance, the government. It’s ironic that somehow casting a vote for a sitting president is something of an anti-government vote. But I think that mistrust of institutions has continued to escalate over time. … One danger for Democrats is to think that Joe’s victory somehow restores that trust, because it won’t for millions of Americans.

Susan Bro

Susan Bro See bio arrow-right

The results of the election are not going to heal that. If anything, it’s going to set people on edge even more. So it’s incumbent upon us to basically go out and evangelize what we believe in. We have to win over other people, and that involves listening, thinking.

Alisha Hoffman-Mirilovich

Alisha Hoffman-Mirilovich See bio arrow-right

It was never going to be an absolute landslide, but it was going to be working for every possible vote. I actually feel more optimistic seeing states that flipped, especially what’s happening right now in Georgia. I feel like [the late congressman] John Lewis is smiling down from heaven. … We just need to keep moving forward. And I think that’s why I say the work’s not done. It’s a major victory in the process of the work, but the work isn’t done.