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Demonstrators participate in a car caravan protest calling for public school classes to be held remotely in Chicago. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

As the virus surges and mass public gatherings become more perilous, our cars have become the new vehicles of political expression.

Driving the news: Automobiles plastered with images of and makeshift memorials to COVID-19 victims who died in poverty will caravan through at least 22 state capitals next week — the latest example of Americans trading in their walking shoes for a pandemic-friendly way to make their voices heard.

  • The Rev. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, is organizing the Nov. 23 "Caravans of Mourning" event. His previous events have been modeled after MLK's 1968 Poor People's March.
  • The group originally planned a series of civil disobedience actions to bring attention to poverty from Appalachia to the Mississippi Delta.
  • Rather than cancel the demonstrations, Barber said, organizers decided to embrace social distancing to continue the fight.

Between the lines: In some cases, there's no substitute for an in-person gathering. Poor People's Campaign spokesperson said a contingency in Washington will get out of their cars for a social distancing vigil outside the National City Christian Church.

The big picture: Cars' utility amid the pandemic became apparent to individual households and communities before political movements embraced it.

Since then, caravans descending on cities in support of President Trump have garnered outsized attention, tying up traffic and clashing with opponents from Portland to New York to Washington.

  • These demonstrators — including many who get out of their cars upon arrival — have won the president's affection on Twitter.
  • Eschewing mass rally crowds out of a desire to protect public health, President-elect Joe Biden instead gathered his own supporters for drive-in style events, counting on the space separating the cars, and the limited number of seats inside each vehicle, to protect people from one another.

The bottom line: COVID-19 has transformed virtually every aspect of social engagement. In this moment, caravans are keeping protests, as well as celebrations, alive.

Go deeper

Dec 23, 2020 - Economy & Business

Used car dealers are suddenly popular

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

An often underrated side of the auto industry — used car sales — is the hot new thing for some automakers who sense they are losing lucrative business to online newcomers.

Why it matters: While feasting for years on profits from expensive SUVs and trucks, many automakers have forfeited the lower end of the market at precisely the time many COVID-wary consumers are looking for an affordable alternative to public transportation.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress sprints to meet crush of deadlines

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Congressional leaders have been pushing off vital action for months — and a lot of it will catch up with them in December, which begins Wednesday.

Driving the news: Funding for the federal government is set to expire at midnight on Friday. There are also consequential deadlines related to the debt limit, President Biden's agenda and annual actions like voting on the National Defense Authorization Act.