The Weekly: Week Eight Recap

Haley Fuller and Clay Lawhead

After days of ballot counting, Joe Biden is the projected winner of the 2020 Presidential Election. How are Northwestern students feeling about it? Also, Evanston re-elected Representative Jan Schakowsky and Senator Dick Durbin, both Democrats. And the proposed Illinois’ Fair Tax Amendment did not pass. Listen to The Weekly: Week 8 Recap to hear from the reporters and editors who covered our recent top stories.

HALEY FULLER: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Haley Fuller.

CLAY LAWHEAD: And I’m Clay Lawhead. This is The Weekly, a podcast that breaks down our top headlines each week.

HALEY FULLER: After four days of waiting, Joe Biden is the projected winner of the 2020 Presidential Election. How did Northwestern students react to Biden’s win and what does this mean for the Democratic Party?

CLAY LAWHEAD: In local news, the Illinois Fair Tax Amendment did not pass. The proposed amendment would have implemented a progressive tax, increasing taxes for anyone who makes more than $250,000 annually. What do Evanston residents have to say about the amendment?

HALEY FULLER: Also on Tuesday night, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat, won her seat for the 12th time. Schakowsky will be representing Evanston in the House of Representatives. Also, Democrat Dick Durbin was reelected to the Senate as one of two Illinois state senators.

CLAY LAWHEAD: Stay with us to hear directly from the reporters and editors who covered our top stories.

CLAY LAWHEAD: On Election Night, the uncertainty and changing numbers had students in both parties on edge, with neither party entirely sure of the outcome. Up until Saturday morning, the results of the presidential race were yet to be determined.

HALEY FULLER: But a little after 10 a.m. Central Time, Joe Biden was officially announced as the winner of the 2020 presidential election. Minutes after CNN and the Associated Press projected his win, some Evanston residents began cheering and honking car horns. Reporters Daisy Conant and James Pollard reported on the presidential leection, following the race and talking to students.

CLAY LAWHEAD: Thanks for coming on, Daisy and James. So what were students saying about the election results at the time of Election Day?

DAISY CONANT: So I spoke with students between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. Tuesday night — which, at the time, Biden’s electoral vote lead had shrank. And it was starting to look as if a lot of states that pollsters had predicted may swing blue in Biden’s direction — I’m thinking of Florida, Georgia, early in the night Ohio was looking like it might swing for Biden — were all starting to trend red and it would only be an hour or so before Ohio and Florida were called for Trump. So at that moment in time, with the Democratic students that I was talking to, there was a general sense of anxiety. I think many students were tired. You know, these were students that had spent the majority of Election Day phone banking, encouraging students to vote, working the polls. They wanted to see the race trending in Biden’s direction because that’s what the polls had indicated, and it wasn’t. There were some students who were hopeful that as the days went on and votes were counted, especially absentee ballots in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona that things would start shifting Biden’s way. So there was a sense of hope among some students that I talked to. Others were much more cynical.

CLAY LAWHEAD: For many young, progressive Democratic voters, Biden was not the top choice to be the Democratic nominee, hence the hashtag #SettleForBiden. Because of this, do you think that these Democratic students were more upset that Biden was losing at the time or that Trump was winning?

DAISY CONANT: I mean, I’ve been talking to students for a year and a half now about who they’ve supported in the election, how they’ve been feeling about how it’s been going. Biden was never the overwhelming choice for students that I talked to. It was always Bernie, Warren, Buttigieg, Harris. That was who students were excited about. They were not excited about Joe Biden. So when it came around to Biden ultimately being the Democratic candidate, I think that there was definitely a sense amongst Democratic students on campus that this would be a repudiation on Trump, as opposed to an overwhelming support of Biden. So I think that there was definitely a sense of general disillusionment when the race was looking so close, because students wanted to see Trump out, as opposed to seeing Biden in.

HALEY FULLER: And then four days later, on Saturday, the Associated Press projected Biden as the winner of the election.

JAMES POLLARD: When the news broke, and several different news organizations called the race for Biden, you saw students posting all over social media, cheering from their apartments. I saw videos of people at Evanston’s Fountain Square cheering, there were cars honking, American flags waving. I walked past several apartments with empty bottles of champagne on their front porch this afternoon. But yeah, there are other students who just saw today as the beginning of a fight. They weren’t in a celebratory mood. For them, Biden and Harris represent an administration that would be more responsive to their policy needs than Trump and Pence, and that’s about it.

CLAY LAWHEAD: So what can we expect now from the Democratic Party with this presidential victory?

JAMES POLLARD: The other big story I feel like out of the week is Democrats didn’t take the Senate back like they hoped, it doesn’t appear right now like they’re going to take the Senate back — there’s going to be two special elections in Georgia that could decide that. And they actually lost seats in the House, where they still have a majority. So it’s looking like at least some parts of the Biden-Harris agenda will have to be implemented either through executive order, or it’ll be really difficult. And one thing I wanted to note for Northwestern students is already today, there’s reports that Senator Chuck Schumer wants President-Elect Biden to sign an executive order that would relieve the first $50,000 of student debt.

HALEY FULLER: Also last Tuesday, the proposed Illinois Fair Tax Amendment did not pass. The amendment would have implemented a progressive income tax for anyone who makes more than $250,000 annually.

CLAY LAWHEAD: Assistant city editor Delaney Nelson covered this story. Delaney, can you tell us a little bit about what the amendment would have done?

DELANEY NELSON: The Illinois Constitution currently mandates a flat tax where it taxes everybody 4.95 percent of their income, regardless of how much they make. So the Fair Tax Act would have started gradually increasing income taxes for people who made $250,000 or above. It would not have increased taxes for anybody who made below that. And so the Fair Tax Act, since it was a constitutional amendment, it would have either required 60 percent of all of those who voted on the Fair Tax to approve it, because it needed a supermajority, or it would have required a simple majority of all votes cast in general, so that would have included even people who didn’t vote on it. But when it came down to it, the percentage was about 55 percent of people voted no, so it failed to meet that threshold.

HALEY FULLER: What were some of the arguments for the Fair Tax Amendment?

DELANEY NELSON: Supporters of the Fair Tax Amendment, from my experience, see the Fair Tax Amendment as a more equitable way to raise revenue for the state. Illinois is kind of known for having fiscal problems, and especially the coronavirus has made this worse. And so the Fair Tax Amendment not only helps raise revenues for the state, but they also see it as, it’s just fair, because you’re taxing richer people at a greater rate.

HALEY FULLER: And what did opponents to the amendment have to say?

DELANEY NELSON: I talked to somebody from the Republican Party in Evanston, who was saying that he believed the Fair Tax Amendment would drive people out of Illinois just because people don’t want to be paying increased taxes. I think also, another thing with the Fair Tax Amendment was that people kind of saw the Fair Tax Amendment as a way for the governor to just start increasing taxes on people without people having a say on it, which isn’t necessarily true but that is one perspective. And so that could be why people voted against it, because overall, (there’s) just kind of uncertainty about what exactly the Fair Tax Amendment would do.

HALEY FULLER: What are the ramifications of the amendment not passing?

DELANEY NELSON: So back in February, Governor J.B. Pritzker delivered his annual budget address to the state, and when he did that, he essentially proposed two budgets: one budget for if the Fair Tax Amendment passed and one for if not, and because the Fair Tax Amendment didn’t pass, that’s going to impact the way the state is spending its money and allocating its money. And from what it seems like — especially because of the coronavirus and how that has impacted budgets in general and really impacted the state’s financial health — many departments around the state are likely to see budget cuts, especially in areas like education and health and human services, which will pose its own problems.

CLAY LAWHEAD: Delaney, thanks so much for coming on.

CLAY LAWHEAD: Also, some Senate and House races were decided on Tuesday night. Among those elected were Dick Durbin and Jan Schakowsky.

HALEY FULLER: Dick Durbin is one of Illinois’ two senators, and Jan Schakowsky represents Evanston in the House of Representatives. Both Durbin and Schakowsky are Democrats and have both served for over 20 years. Here to tell us more about this is city editor Jacob Fulton. Jacob, can you tell us a little bit about these races?

JACOB FULTON: So starting off with Senator Dick Durbin, he was reelected to represent Illinois in the Senate on Tuesday night. He’s had the job since 1997, so he’s had it for a couple terms now. And he was running against four other candidates. Most notably, he was running against Republican Mark Curran who came in second place. Durbin got 52.3 percent of the vote, approximately. Mark Curran came in second; he got around 40 percent of the vote. Durbin was pretty heavily favored to win, and the expectation matched up with reality. Illinois has generally been a Democratic stronghold over the past few election cycles, mostly based on the fact that Chicago’s in the state and Chicago reliably goes blue, and pretty much flips the entire state blue most years. So Durbin took the state and is getting a fifth term in the Senate.

CLAY LAWHEAD: What about Schakowsky’s race?

JACOB FULTON: Schakowsky, on the other hand, was elected to represent Evanston. This is going to be her 12th term in the House of Representatives. She was first elected to the House in 1998. And her race was called around 9 p.m. on Tuesday night. She ended up with about 67.5 percent of the vote, compared to her challenger, Republican Sargis Sangari.

HALEY FULLER: They’ve both been representing Evanston and Illinois for over 20 years, but are there any policy changes or important decisions that they might usher in?

JACOB FULTON: So both Schakowsky and Durbin have been around for a while, so there probably won’t be any major policy changes as a result of their continued appointments. Schakowsky is one of the more progressive members of the House so she will continue to push for progressive policies, things along those lines. And she’s really trying to focus on economic development and the impact of COVID-19 in the coming term. Durbin, pretty much the same thing, he’s not as progressive as Schakowsky is but not a whole lot of change there either. He’s pretty much going to try and keep doing the same thing. The only impact we might see from Durbin holding the seat is if Democrats end up flipping the House, which there are still a couple races uncalled.

CLAY LAWHEAD: Thank you so much for coming on, Jacob.

CLAY LAWHEAD: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Clay Lawhead.

HALEY FULLER: And I’m Haley Fuller. That’s it for this episode of The Weekly, we’ll see you next Monday.

CLAY LAWHEAD: This episode was reported by James Pollard, Daisy Conant, Delaney Nelson, Drew Myers, Sam Heller, Jacob Fulton, Haley Fuller and myself, Clay Lawhead. This episode was produced by both Haley Fuller and myself. The audio editor of The Daily Northwestern is Alex Chun, the digital managing editors are Molly Lubbers and Jacob Ohara, and the editor in chief is Marissa Martinez.

Email: [email protected] and [email protected]
Twitter: @haley_fuller_ and @omqclaydoh

Stories Referenced:
Evanston polling locations quiet on Election Day
Illinois residents reject Fair Tax Amendment
Dick Durbin re-elected to U.S. Senate
U.S Rep. Jan Schakowsky wins re-election race for 12th term
Election results unclear as Michigan, Pennsylvania, other battleground states still counting votes