The Atlantic Politics Daily: Remember the Election?

The governor of Ohio recommended this evening that the state postpone Tuesday’s primary voting until June. Plus: The winner of last night’s debate? The coronavirus.

It’s Monday, March 16. In today’s newsletter: The governor of Ohio recommended this evening that the state postpone Tuesday’s primary voting until June.

In the rest of today’s newsletter: The winner of last night’s presidential debate? The coronavirus. Plus: The sisters stuck in refugee limbo.



Remember the election?

The coronavirus pandemic changed everything, and in some ways, if you were watching last night’s debate, nothing at all about dynamics of the 2020 race.

Last night’s Democratic debate was unlike any of the many, many debates that have taken place over the course of the 2020 campaign. Just two candidates were on stage—Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders—and instead of the raucous audience and gauzy backdrops, it was a somber affair subdued by COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Regardless of the optics of the debate, the substance of the debate was eerily familiar, my colleague Russell Berman writes:

Biden is pitching himself as the candidate of stability, the tested veteran who can handle a crisis more ably than the Republicans’ erratic incumbent, President Donald Trump… [Sanders] used the crisis as an opportunity—perhaps his last one—to advocate for the revolutionary change that has defined his two campaigns for the presidency. The pandemic, he said, “exposes the dysfunctionality of the health-care system and how poorly prepared we are despite how much money we spend.”

The types of Americans at high risk in this raging outbreak look a whole lot like the two major presidential contenders (and incumbent): Biden, Bernie, and Trump.

To paraphrase my colleague Derek Thompson, these candidates are really freaking old:

We have now before us three candidates divided by ideology, but united in dotage. All three white men were born in the 1940s, before the invention of Velcro and the independence of India and Israel. Amazingly, each is currently older than any of the past three U.S. presidents. If, through some constitutional glitch, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, or Barack Obama jumped into the 2020 race at this very moment, each would suddenly become the youngest man in the contest.

Read Derek’s full story here.


We are continuing our coverage of the coronavirus and have made some of our most essential stories free for everyone to read. Let us know if you have specific questions about the virus—or if you have a personal experience you’d like to share with us. You can reply directly to this newsletter, or send a note to our team here.

—Saahil Desai


The Sisters Stuck in Refugee Limbo

Angela and Leen Albaka are two sisters from Damascus, Syria, who dreamed of moving to the United States. But when the civil war broke out in their home country 10 years ago, they moved quickly to apply for resettlement.

Their move was approved, but since Trump took office, they’ve been stuck in a “Kafka-esque saga that is reflective of America’s long-running failure to address the conflict in Syria,” our national-security and intelligence reporter Mike Giglio writes:

The sisters stand out for how they’ve refused to give up on their idealized vision of America as the years pass, relentlessly trying to get their case heard, even attempting to reach U.S. presidents and celebrities. They’re also a reminder that even as a war that has killed hundreds of thousands recedes from the minds of most Americans, millions of Syrians are still dealing with the fallout from the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe.

Read Mike’s story of these two sisters here.



The COVID-19 pandemic has by now disrupted all parts of American public life, transforming the way Americans work, learn, socialize, and debate.

In many ways, the outbreak is forcing an existential questioning of America’s core values: “What if it turns out, as it almost certainly will, that other nations are far better than we are at coping with this kind of catastrophe?” Anne Applebaum writes. The coming crisis is likely to shock Americans with an emperor-has-no-clothes moment when they realize, she argues, “when human life is in peril, we are not as good as Singapore, as South Korea, as Germany.”

Here is how our writers are analyzing these changes to daily life:

+ The president’s top public-health adviser has asked for Americans to limit their social interactions. That doesn’t mean you should sacrifice emotional relationships.

+ Mayors and governors are closing bars, nightclubs, and limiting restaurants to takeout or delivery service. That’s a catastrophe for the night economy and the service workers who rely on it for a living.

+ Bans on public gatherings include movie theaters. Here’s how that’s hurting Hollywood.

+ School districts across the country are shuttering classrooms. There might be a better way to balance public health and kids’ education, write Erika and Nicholas Christakis.

You can keep up with The Atlantic’s most crucial coronavirus coverage here.


Today’s newsletter was written by Saahil Desai, an editor on the Politics desk, and Christian Paz, a Politics fellow. It was edited by Shan Wang, who oversees newsletters.

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